Best Practices

Voice mail is a helpful business tool, but we as mailbox users must take responsibility for proper use of our mailboxes. The greeting that callers hear forms their first impression of you and the company you represent--the University. Therefore, we should carefully consider what we say.

Take the time to rehearse the greeting before recording it. If it sounds like you are reading it, when you first record it, erase it and try again. You can record your greeting as many times as you need to until it sounds just right. Be sure you tell your callers what you want them to do. They will appreciate your help. Also:

  • Make sure your greeting is business-like and courteous.
  • The greeting should be thorough but concise, tell people what options are available to them.
  • Request your callers leave a name, telephone number and the reason for their call. That way you'll be able to return their call with the proper response, even if you're on the road without your telephone list.
  • Use a temporary greeting as appropriate. Tell callers when you're going to be away for a day or longer.
  • Change your greeting periodically. It lets callers know that you use your voice mail effectively.

Before you dial
Assume you'll get voice mail every time you make a phone call. That way, even if someone picks up, you'll be able to deliver a brief, clear and detailed message. Such clarity will prevent confusion--and increase your odds of getting what you need.

Source: Home Office Computing, Curtco Freedom Work (published in Communication Solutions newsletter)

Provide details
As a caller who reaches voice mail, provide details as to the nature of your call. The recipient of your message can be prepared with information when your call is returned. Avoid playing voice mail tag.

Be concise and to the point
When leaving a message, be brief. Anticipate the possibility of speaking to a voice mailbox, rather than a live person, and capsulize your message.

Don't read a message from a script. Speak from notes, as you would with a speech; you'll be warmer, more natural and more persuasive.

Want a faster response?
You'll encourage people to return your phone calls faster if you leave effective voice mail messages. Experts suggest making yours better by:

  • Keeping your messages between 40 and 50 seconds. Too short and the message may seem insignificant. Too long and you may rile the other party.
  • Pretending you're writing your phone number in the air as you recite it. Most callers speak much too fast, which forces recipients to replay the message repeatedly.
  • Speaking louder than usual, enunciating as you speak. Your recipient may retrieve your message in a noisy place like an airport.

Source: Professional speaker Jeff Davidson in Association Management, 202-626-2708 (excerpt from Communications Solutions newsletter)

Avoid Long Recipient Lists
We often recite the names of recipients of a message to let others know who is receiving it. When prefacing your message, it is a time saver to use a group name, when appropriate, for example: "To the Telecommunications Upgrade Committee Members....."

Limit Your Message Preface
Maintain a professional tone by avoiding greetings like "Hi, how are you?" These are time consuming and don't properly identify you. They also extend the time required to communicate efficiently.

"If you have questions..."
It is popular convention on letters to close with the above standard line. This is time consuming for a voice message. Most of us will feel free to reply to voice mail if necessary. If a direct call is necessary, we do that too.

"And he said..., and he said..."
We often find that a message would be of benefit to someone else. It is not necessary to reiterate the text of an original message. If you forward a message, add only the minimum required information to explain why you are forwarding it, or to add to the clarity or value of the information.

Many of us return acknowledgments that a message is received. This is not always necessary. It adds to the number of messages for others and quite often no other information is contained in the acknowledgment.

Excerpts from PacBell Voice Mail Guid