What you lose when you send calls to voicemail

Man makes notes in a notebook on a table with a phone

You’re calling your favorite doughnut shop, Sally’s Donuts Galore. You sit through two rings while you tap your feet, eager to place your order for those fresh glazed, glistening, crunchy-on-the-outside-yet-soft-on-the-inside, party-for-your-tastebuds-and-everyone’s-invited hoops of fried dough.

The phone rings a fifth time, then a sixth time, and there it is: the recording telling you to leave a message after the tone.

Sigh. Looks like you won’t be able to place an order today. A wave of disappointment hits you, your dreams of delicious doughnuts dashed.

Okay, I realize I’m being (a tad) dramatic here. But these feelings—the anticipation of connecting with someone over the phone, the frustration when they don’t pick up—can be a total bummer for people who want to get in touch with a business.

And many times, the stakes are far higher than doughnuts. Imagine trying to call a financial advisor after receiving a scary letter from the IRS. Or a plumber after a pipe has burst. Or an attorney after getting arrested. How would you feel if that call went to voicemail?

Unfortunately, that’s what happens to countless people in need, countless times a day. Many business owners and professionals can’t or choose not to pick up the phone, sending most—if not all—calls to voicemail. In fact:

But you don’t need statistics. Many of us know the truth from experience: lots of people simply don’t pick up the phone anymore. Why is that? Why are so many callers left hanging?

Reasons you might rely on voicemail

Let’s face it: businesses have plenty of reasons not to pick up the phone.

Calls take time and energy that not everyone can afford to spare. When you’re busy developing legal strategies, helping patients, editing videos, or doing one of the other 25 things you have to do to pay the bills next week, voicemail feels like a necessary shield from distractions. After a while, keeping your phone on Do Not Disturb mode becomes second nature.

And then there are all the ways in which modern society has conditioned us to ignore phone calls. Maybe you send calls to voicemail because…

1. You don’t want to deal with robocalls.

If you’re like many Americans, you receive at least two robocalls per week—and if you’re truly unfortunate, that number is much, much higher.

We’re living through what some have termed a robocall crisis, and despite making headway in the fight, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) admits it’s “a game of whack-a-mole” with no clear “long-term solution.”

Stop robocalls for good.

Let’s end robocalls once and for all.

2. You really don’t want to deal with scam calls.

In addition to all those robocalls, there’s the scourge of scams. Phone fraud remains the number one most reported form of fraud in the United States, accounting for at least $667 million lost in 2019.

According to the FTC, Scammers prey on trusting people who pick up their phones, often impersonating “the government or a well-known business, a romantic interest, or a family member with an emergency.”

No wonder people have stopped answering their calls. As the aptly-named user “don’t answer any” points out in the comments of the article linked above, “I have a habit of not answering any call without caller ID or message on my answering machine.”

3. You don’t feel comfortable talking on the phone, period.

Even if you don’t receive that many spam or scam calls, you might not love the prospect of answering the phone. That’s okay—not everyone’s a phone person. Many of us prefer other forms of communication, such as text messaging, email, or online chat.

So-called “phone phobia” is particularly prevalent among members of younger generations. Approximately 76% of millennials, for instance, have anxious thoughts when their phones ring, and 61% prefer to avoid calls entirely.

It’s not hard to see why. Phone calls can be awkward, stilted, and—when you’re running a business—emotionally charged. Maybe you regularly receive calls from impatient clients or dissatisfied customers. Or maybe you don’t enjoy answering the same questions, trying to sell people on your business, and being “on” all the time. 

What happens when you send all calls to voicemail?

All of this raises the question:

So what?

What’s the big deal with sending people to voicemail? What are you really missing out on by not answering your phone? Well…

You’re missing connections.

Not every call is a time-waster. There could be a potential new customer or client on the other end—or even a potential employee, vendor, business partner, or investor. Indeed, a five-minute call from a stranger can shape the future of your business.

You’re getting an incomplete picture of the people you serve.

A call is a valuable moment to sit back and listen. Listen carefully and you may learn a few valuable insights that curb challenging conversations in the future.

Remember: many people feel uncomfortable on the phone and prefer to research and connect with businesses through other means. In other words, they might be using the phone as a last resort.

Next time you pick up a call, consider:

  • Why is this person contacting my business?
  • What is this person looking for?
  • How could I have provided the solution or information this person wants before they reached out to me?

Your customers or clients are going elsewhere.

Missed calls are missed sales. Someone who reaches your voicemail probably isn’t going to try to contact you again or wait for you to return their call. Instead, they’ll reach out to a competitor.

You’re risking a poor reputation.

Think back to the beginning of this article, and the caller waiting on the line, listening to a phone ring—the person waiting to place an order, or speak to their lawyer, or get an estimate for a plumbing job. That person’s feelings matter; their experience matters. Poor experiences can add up and are more likely to be shared, which can hurt your business in the long run.

Consider how unanswered calls can negatively affect sentiment around your business. People may start to think you’re too busy or disorganized to help them.

At a time when many people’s friends don’t even return their calls, we could all use more happiness and personal connections. Make sure calls to your business are answered and you’ll leave a positive impression that stands out among the noise.

That said, you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, you don’t have to answer any of your calls if you don’t want to—and you can still ensure everyone who contacts your business gets the personalized attention they deserve.

Let Ruby answer your calls for you.

When you use Ruby, you ensure your callers connect with friendly, caring virtual receptionists. It doesn’t matter who the caller is, why they’re calling, or what time they’re reaching out——we’ll answer the phone for you with a warm, professional, customized greeting.

We do it for over 13,000 businesses every day, serving as a seamless extension of our customers’ brands.