Getting the Most From Voice Mail


By Odette Pollar ,

How time flies. Do you remember when voicemail was the new thing? Even though many people rely more on email than the phone, voicemail is still a well-used feature with its own challenges. Voice mail is sometimes considered impersonal and infuriating, particularly to those who have a deadline or who need immediate help. Don't you just love it when you place a call and the robotic voice says, "Thank you for calling xyz company. If you know your party's extension, please press it now." Of course, you don't know your party's extension, and sometimes, even when you do and press the appropriate number, you get back to the original robotic voice in time to hear ringing, the electronic voice telling you to leave a message, a long silence, more ringing and another instruction to leave message at the tone. Even more special are those occasions when the operator does not come on if you hold, so you get automatically disconnected.

On the plus side, the benefits of voice mail are numerous. Users love it because they can return calls to customers and clients and leave messages any time day or night, freeing them from being tied to normal business hours. You no longer have to worry that a receptionist will mess up your message, spell your name wrong, forget to write down your phone number, transpose digits, or the worst, lose the message entirely. According to a study by Traveler's Corporation, a Hartford, Connecticut-based insurance company, its survey found that 60% of its internal telephone calls did not require a two-way conversation. Leaving key information or a confirmation no longer requires interrupting another person.

User Tips

  1. When recording your voice mail message, always let the caller know within the first few seconds how to bypass the message and go straight either to an operator or to the beep. Remember to speak naturally and smile.
  2. Change your message regularly, and remember to keep it short and simple. Leave your name, the company name, and ask for a detailed message from the caller. Do not forget to request that the caller leave the best time to be reached in the message.
  3. Leave a friendly personal message; however, be cautious of leaving one that is too long or contains excessive background noise, including long musical passages.
  4. Do not make a commitment you cannot reasonably keep. If your message says you will call back at the end of the day, and that is unlikely to occur, change it to let people know that it will be within twenty-four hours instead.
  5. When you are leaving a message, speak clearly and slowly, especially when leaving your telephone number. Leave the number, even if you think the recipient has it. He or she may be traveling without the relevant telephone book when retrieving their messages.
  6. To reduce the number of incoming and outgoing calls, try to leave messages that do not require a response. For example, "I will send this to the printer by three o'clock Friday (date) unless I hear from you." Rather than asking people to call back to confirm information, leave your understanding of the date, time, or situation, followed by, "Call me back only if any of the above information is incorrect."
  7. When leaving a message be concise about what it is concerning and the next action you are requesting. Let the person you called know when you will be available for their return call. And leave your number at the beginning and at the end of your message.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: Visit us at: call: 1-800-599-8463.

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