Voicemail gets a bad reputation these days. People look for immediate responses and voicemail is all about waiting. It is still a very important communications tool for business and there are a number of steps.
1. Verify Your CallerID
How often have you heard this? “Oh, I didn’t listen to your voicemail, I just called you back.” Your voicemail may just be a signal to someone that they should call you. The only information the person may have is the CallerID and the time you called. They will be judging their response by that meager amount of information, so it better be right. Verify what information you are sending from your office phone by calling another number and seeing what CallerID you get.
First, check the phone number. Is it YOUR phone number? Seems like a silly question, but this can be an issue. If you are calling from an office phone system or service, the outbound callerID might be a company main number or a departmental number rather than your direct dial phone number. This can be confusing to your business associates. The contact record on their cell phone won’t match and they won’t recognize your call. That might be the reason you went to voicemail in the first place! Even worse, if the callerID you sent is wrong, then the person may end up calling back the wrong number. You may have gotten a call back, but never received it.
If the phone number you see when you do the verification test isn’t yours, you’ll need to talk with your phone system administrator to see if they can send your direct dial number (DID is the technical term) as the callerID for your phone.
Second, check the name. CallerID name can be an issue. I discovered awhile back that my cell phone was sending my wife’s name since our account was in her name. You want to verify that what you are sending sends the right message, especially when calling in a business environment. You are likely sending your company’s name, but it’s possible to still send your name instead. Once again, check with your phone system administrator.
2. Consider Your Content
No one wants to listen to a long voicemail message. The days of leaving multi-minute messages are over. You want to keep your message to 10-20 seconds. That’s it. Studies show that people are much more likely to actually listen to your message if it’s short. So make a very brief statement about who you are and why you are calling. Don’t go into detail. Detail is the enemy.
A key way to do this is to think about what your voicemail message might be BEFORE you make the call. Consider for a moment what your purpose for the call. Maybe even write down a note.
The next thing to remember is to talk more slowly. Everyone talks faster when leaving a message. It can make it hard for the listener to write down the details. Make it easier on then by talking slower. Take an extra breath between your name and your phone number.
The last thing to remember when leaving a voicemail message is to repeat yourself. Yes, you want your message to be short and concise, but you are going to talk too fast. Even when you make the attempt to slow down, you will speak your phone number too quickly. It’s just human nature. Say your name and your phone number twice. Once at the beginning of the message and once at the end. So you end up with a message that looks like this:
“Hi, this is <NAME> and my phone number is, <NUMBER>. I’m calling about <REASON FOR CALL>. I look forward to talking to you. Again, my name is <NAME> and my phone number is, <NUMBER>.”
That’s a short and simple message that makes sure you leave all of the important information simply.
3. On The Flip Side, Keep Your Greeting Short
You should remember to keep your message short on the other side of voicemail. When you set up your voicemail greeting, you should make the message as short as possible. People are more likely to leave a voicemail and tell you what they need if they don’t have to listen to a long message.Consider most of the information that people put in voicemail messages. Isn’t it redundant? Saying “I’m not available right now,” “I am out of the office,” “I will be checking messages,” “I will call you back,” and all of the other useless information just prolongs your message and gives the caller time to decide they don’t want to wait. Keep your voicemail greeting as short as you reasonably can.
Just say your name, your organization, and ask them to leave a message. That’s it. It’s short and to the point. The only exception is if you are going to be out an extended period of time (for example, on vacation). In that case, add the time you will be gone to your message (and, possibly, who to contact for immediate help). Otherwise, get rid of all the extraneous verbiage in your message. You may be surprised at how many more people leave you a message.
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Learn more about the author, Kevin Butler! Read his full biography here.