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VoiP: Snake Oil or Magic Elixir

Advertising lore is filled with stories of Snake Oil Salesmen, pitching the wonders of a magic product that can ‘do it all’. I came across an article on NPR.org that talked about the history of snake oil in America – and learned that the original snake oil actually worked as advertised.  The mid 1800’s saw a tremendous influx of Chinese immigrants to the United States, many of whom worked on the railroad, and brought with them various medicines including snake oil.  Original Snake Oil, which is rich in omega-3 acids, was a very effective form of treating arthritis and bursitis. This ‘magic elixir’ was made from the oil of the Chinese water snake, and when rubbed on sore joints offered relief from the effects of a long day’s work.

Americans made note of the effects of Chinese snake oil, and opportunistic individuals like Clark Stanley decided to make and sell their own brand of snake oil. Except, there were no Chinese water snakes available in the United States – so Stanley used rattlesnake, claiming he learned about its healing power from Hopi medicine men. He told throngs of enthusiastic customers that his snake oil would cure everything from headaches to kidney troubles.  Many believed. Many units were sold. Many were disappointed with the lack of results.  Turns out there are no healing properties in rattlesnake oil. As a matter of fact there was no actual rattlesnake oil in Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil, just a combination of mineral oil, beef fat, red pepper, and turpentine.

In our business of creating advertising messages for the on-hold environment, many of our customers are moving to a VoIP platform for their phone systems.  Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has revolutionized business telephone systems, virtually eliminating long distance charges. Any business owner can tell you the effect lowering expenses has on the bottom line. Also, VoIP is a digital platform which means there is potential for great audio quality for your calls.  These are good things.

However, when eager sales representatives extol the virtues of VoIP as a ‘do-it-all’ one stop solution, this is where their pitch begins to reek of beef fat and turpentine.  ‘Yessiree, this system comes complete with auto-attendant, on-hold music, call manager, group meeting calendar, salad bowl with matching Ginsu knives, and is guaranteed to grow hair on a billiard ball.’

What they neglect to tell you is that although the auto attendant feature available in VoIP systems can answer and route calls, customers will still become frustrated if locked in an impenetrable maze of voice-mail prompts and never reach a real person. So, the auto attendant may answer the phone, but it will not replace staff or the personalized touch a live interaction will provide your customers when they call. It is just a digital phone solution.

Another myth VoIP representatives proliferate is that you will no longer need a professional on-hold advertising company to reinforce your image to your callers. VoIP comes with royalty free on-hold music included at no extra cost. That’s right folks, it’s FREE. The premise sounds great until you actually use it.

This ‘music’ is free for a reason.  It is usually extremely short and loops repetitively so you can’t tell where it begins, where it ends, or when it repeats.  Listen to that mind-numbing, repetitive loop over and over, and pretty soon you will begin to believe that what Donald says in his campaign soundbites actually makes sense, and that Hillary wiping the hard drive is no big deal

Think about it. You invest time, energy, and resources developing the ‘face’ of your company.  I’m sure you want the ‘voice’ to match. YOUR ON-HOLD PRODUCT IS THAT VOICE.  After you spend all that money on brand development, advertising, target marketing, and strategy to attract a potential customer – do you really want a free, one-size-fits all, after-thought audio product endlessly looping for eternity creating the first impression of your business when they call?  Of course you don’t. You’d prefer something that represents who you are; a voice as distinctive as your face. After all, your image is on the line each time you receive a call.

A customized, professionally produced on-hold advertising program will reinforce your brand in such a way that educates, entertains, and engages your callers.  That is a service we provide that the VoIP platform simply can’t; no matter what your sales rep says.  We have hundreds upon hundreds of clients running advertising programs we created specifically for their VoIP phone system. We are well-versed in the file-based nature of the platform and can provide the audio for you in whatever format is necessary for your VoIP phone system whether it is on-site or hosted in the cloud.

VoIP is not snake oil or a magic elixir.  It is a solid, cost effective business solution for your phone system. However, it will not replace your need for excellent staff or the importance of having the right ‘voice’ to reinforce your professional image while callers are on-hold.  But, if you just so happen to believe the VoIP royalty free music really can do it all for your business – Friend, have I got a bottle for you!

Tom McTee, Super Genius

Woodstock Media Group


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