Do Not Abuse Voicemail

One thing I am sure we all hate is getting home after a long day’s work and checking phone messages, only to find out that half of the messages or more are from telemarketers. They leave a lovely message describing in painful detail all of the advantages of using their system, or buying their product, or selling our house with them, or hiring their moving company trucks…the list goes on. Thank you for wasting my time night after night!

Similarly, we come in to work in the morning or after lunch and we have a bunch of voicemails that are long, drawn out, unclear and basically require us to listen through them all just to turn around and contact the offender to find out what they really want. Then, when we check our email, there is a repeat message emailed to us! Wow – what a fantastic example of time-wasting.

If you are wondering why companies still employ telemarketers, by the way, even though we all hate them, the reason is simple – it pays well to do so. Statistics state that 10% of an average company’s profits come from telesales. If you think that 10% is not much, please remember that for big companies, that means $100,000.00 or $1,000,000.00 or much more a year! Plus if we add the extra cost-saver of using outsourced overseas companies, we can see why companies still employ this headache-causing but effective marketing strategy. Granted, things are better since the addition of the "DNC" or Do Not Call list, but still companies are finding ways around that to still contact you at home for surveys, customer feedback and of course - sales.

So what can we do? Well how about answering the phone and telling them about your day for 15 minutes? That would cost their company money! However I know it is not the fault of the telemarketer, so why give them a hard time right? Maybe they need that job.

To return to my title point, please do not abuse people’s voicemail. This goes for personal and professional calls.

Before you actually dial the person’s number, make sure you can say in just a few sentences what you want that person to do next. Do not ramble on and on, and do not let them hear you thinking and breathing and checking your papers or PC.

Call them and leave a nice clean message that takes less than 30 seconds. We are all busy and checking email and phone messages are big time-consumers. Necessary evils, yes, but we need to respect our time and the time of others.

Here are some examples:

"Hi John, sorry I’ve missed you. Give me a call back please after 4pm on my office number or after 7pm on my cell. I think we need to discuss the ABC report. Thanks."

"Hello Mom, it’s me. Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong, I just want to know if you can call me back in the next few hours to discuss our upcoming day-trip to the park. I have some questions as to our agenda. Thanks, love you!"

"Hi Rob, this is Rachel at 123 Solutions Inc. I received your email attachment and just had a couple questions about it. Please give me a call back at this number … to discuss. Otherwise we can do this over email. Thanks and looking forward to working together."

Voicemail messages are best used to initiate contact only. Save the details for email or actually speaking to someone – live. Details are best used either in conversation, so both parties can write important information down and ask real-time questions to avoid misunderstanding, etc. or in an email that is written like a report or guide to a project.

If you can implement this simple strategy of leaving a short, simple and clear message on one main topic, you will do two things. You will encourage others to contact you to discuss the details (assuming they want to) and you will save them time, which they like. You will not waste their time like telemarketers often do and therefore you are training others to respect your time, as you respect theirs. It becomes a two-way street to more efficient communications.

Finally, I would also just like to remind everyone to ‘book-end’ your voicemails when you are contacting a new person for the first time. This means leaving your name and number clearly at the beginning and ending of your voice message. It takes a few seconds more, but it gives the listener two chances to write down your information. Then they do not have to listen to your message a second or third time and they can call you back faster. And isn’t that what we really want?


Canada's 1st Communication Coach - TEDx Speaker - 3V COMMUNICATIONS Founder/ Coach/Trainer - YEDI Program Advisor/Instructor - NCCA Founder/Executive Director - BJJ blue belt - Trekkie forever! 
I've been blogging about interpersonal and business communication skills, public speaking, body language, ESL issues etc. since 2006.  Here's my popular blog, and my recent TEDx Talk "The Long Life of First Impressions."

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