How To Leave the Right Voice Mail: Don't State the Obvious!

Posted: August, 19, 2013 | Categories: Workplace Tips & Professionalism

Part I of III Excerpts from the book 'How to Nail Voice Mail'?

By Shawna Schuh


When voice mail was new and people wanted to make sure you understood the medium, they left messages like the following:

'Hello, you've reached the office of Joe Motor and I'm either not here or away from the phone right now. If you'll leave your name and a message after the beep, I'll get back to you.'?


Guess what? This message states the obvious, something I already know because I reached voice mail instead of a live voice.

If you don't pick up and answer your phone I sorta figured out already that you were either not there or on the other line or away from the phone or unavailable or away from your desk or (need I go on?)

By now, anyone who uses a phone with any regularity knows about answering machines and voice-mail systems. They know what they are and what to do when they hear the beep '“ but they keep hearing messages just like the one above. Stating the obvious wastes valuable phone time that could be used to create a wonderful connection with your caller even though you're not there to physically answer the phone.

This is actually my favorite point around nailing voice mail because this type of message is so prevalent and it could be so much better. By stating the obvious on your message you waste time and give off one of the following impressions:

  • You don't use creativity in your messages
  • You assume the caller doesn't understand voice mail concepts

Both of the above do not help you in business. Both are mediocre ways of doing something that everyone uses but few use well.

When it comes to voice mail, people are so used to doing what they have always done that they haven't taken the time to think about how what they say might affect their callers. Guess what? If I get your voice mail, I've got a pretty good idea you're not there or you can't or don't want to answer your phone. I'd like to hear something else like when you might return calls, that you're glad I called or that you will help me.

If you're thinking to yourself right this minute, 'My voice mail message says that!'? this is a good place to start improving. Most everyone I know just wants to be good at what they do and help people. No one is bad for stating the obvious and in the big scheme of things it's not the most pressing issue to address. I think it is important to mention and improve because it's the little things that can make the biggest difference and stating the obvious is so mediocre but so easy to change.

If you're trying to make a caller feel good, or at least feel better, about not getting you in person then leave a better message than one that states things like:

  • 'I'm not at my desk'?
  • 'I'm not here right now'?
  • 'I'm away from the phone'?
  • 'I'm either on the phone or away from the office'?
  • 'I can't pick up right now'?
  • 'I'm unavailable to take your call'?

You didn't pick up the phone so we got that you couldn't!

By JoAnne Williams
Founder, President and CEO

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