Voice Mail Etiquette
I am a busy executive of a multi-billion dollar company. As such
I am incredibly busy and must choose where focus my energy and
efforts with great care. Thus, I am always looking for those
things that steal time.
One of those time stealers is the phone. In fact, next to
meetings and email, it is probably the worst time stealer of
all. Phone tag is a complete waste of time, and I generally
simply refuse to play the game at all.
Voice mails, like email messages, can be major time wasters. I
know you've gotten at least once voice mail in your life that
goes on and on, with the callers phone number mumbled at the
end. You just wasted five or ten minutes!
So what I do is simple. Unless the voice mail message is from my
boss or someone very important (like my wife), I will ignore it
unless it follows most of the voice mail etiquette rules listed
Tell me who you are - I hate playing the guessing game. If you
leave a message without leaving your name (first and last is
best), then I'm not going to spend a lot of time trying to
figure out who you are.
Leave contact information - Look, I'm pretty good at what I do
but I don't have every phone number in the world memorized. In
fact, believe it or not, I may not have your phone number even
listed in my address book. Even if I do, you've given me another
reason not to call you back - you've annoyed me by forcing me to
have to search around for your number. This wastes time, and
unless your call is important to me you are probably not going
to get a return call.
Be polite - Believe me, my day is hard enough without listening
to a hostile voice message. You want to make I don't call you
back (unless you are the boss or the boss's boss), then leave a
very emotional message. You'd be amazed at how quickly I'll
delete those that are hostile or somehow upsetting.
Tell me what you want - I'm highly unlikely to call you back if
you call out of the blue and leave a voicemail like "this is
Joe, call me". Unless I already know what you want (or suddenly
develop telepathy) I am not going to return your call.
Be brief - Don't leave a fifteen minute message. I can guarantee
you that unless you are my wife or a rich uncle leaving me a
million dollars I will have erased it long before. If you've got
something long winded to say then presumably you've done
business with me before, so send me an email instead.
Give me the information in order - Tell me who you are first,
then, if necessary, what company you work with. Now tell me your
phone number, then tell me what you want. That's the best way to
get me to return your call.
Tell me the phone number slowly - The best thing to do with a
phone number is say it slowly. A second between each digit is
best. This gives me time to write down the number. Also, don't
mumble your phone number. Speak it clearly and precisely. It's
also a good idea to repeat at the end of the message just to
make sure I've got it.
Generally, as I said at the beginning of this article, I will
not even attempt to return phone calls unless they follow these
rules. And believe me, it does not take long to "train" regular
callers - they want me to call them back.
Follow these suggestions and you will get a prompt call back
with the answers or service that you need. This saves everyone
time, which improves our productivity.