By Phil Stella
Can you remember the days before voicemail? I can. Voicemail has proven to be a tremendous advantage — or disadvantage — for your business, based on the impression your customers get. The devil is in the details.
Before pointing out a few best practices, let’s look at an all-too typical voicemail greeting:
“Hello, this is Ralph Schmoozer, president of Ralph Schmoozer and Associates. I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now. I’m either on the other line or away from my desk, but your call is very important to me. Please leave me a message with your name and number at the tone and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you and have a nice day.” (69 words, 40 seconds)
Here is how the same greeting could have been posed more effectively and efficiently:* “ … president of …” — Who really cares? Probably not your callers. Let go of the ego.* Make sure you have a brief branding statement, so every caller knows what you’re all about. Useful information … for you, if not for them.* “I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now …” — Why apologize? It’s not your fault that they called when you weren’t available. Useless information and a waste of the caller’s time.* “I’m either on the other line or away from my desk …” — Who cares? Not a complete answer anyway. You could also be in the bathroom, out for a smoke, taking a power nap or simply avoiding them because Caller-ID told you who it was. Useless information and a waste of the caller’s time.* “But your call is very important to me …” — How do you know? It could be a wrong number, an unsolicited telemarketer or your mother-in-law. Contrived attempt at courtesy. Useless information and a waste of the caller’s time.
* “Please leave me your name and number at the tone … “ — After 20 years of voicemail, do we still need to tell callers what to do? Do you really care about doing business with people who aren’t bright enough to know to leave their name and number? I don’t. Useless information and a waste of the caller’s time.
* “And I’ll get back to you as soon as possible …” — What does this mean? Since you didn’t define return call expectations, you leave it to the caller to do so. And very likely it will be a different definition than yours would have been. Better to say nothing or give the caller a reasonable expectation of when they should expect you to call back.
Here is the same message after being enlightened:
“Hello, this is Ralph Schmoozer with Schmoozer and Associates, your one-stop shop for small-business technology needs. Please leave me a detailed message and I’ll return it within four business hours. Thank you.” (34 words, 20 seconds)
We already know which one is shorter, but which one projects a better image of the business and the person? Which one is more courteous and user-friendly? Take a few minutes to enhance the quality of your voicemail greeting today. I’ll be calling you soon to find out how you did.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training and Communication Inc. and helps people take the pain out of workplace communication, sales presentations, and networking. He is the COSE MindSpring Networking Expert and a popular speaker on the topic. Contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 449-0356.
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