"Hi, you've reach Frank at 555-551-5151. Unfortunately, I'm either on the other line, away from desk, or out of the office. Please leave a voicemail after the beep."
We've heard it 1000 times. That generic greeting at the end of a long string of unanswered rings that tells us to do exactly what we already know. We don't think much about it, but how we record this message can significantly impact what happens next. We're going to identify what's wrong with Frank's voicemail greeting and tell you how to leave a more effective one for your business.
Here's what's wrong with Franks message:
1) "Hi, you've reach Frank at 555-551-5151.
If we dialed the number, we already know what it is. There's no reason to restate the number. If the person dialed the number by accident, they will know as soon as they hear the voice and your name
2) Unfortunately, I'm either on the other line, away from desk, or out of the office.
Frank has pretty much run the gamut of why he could be away from his desk. This statement could be accurate, but it doesn't do much for the sake of the caller.
3) Please leave a voicemail after the beep
If in 2009, the person doesn't know what to do after the beep, they're probably not worth the time.
Here are five ways to leave an effective personal voicemail greeting for your voice mailbox using Frank's example.
1. Be willing to change your voicemail greeting regularly.
Your schedule and availability are likely to change frequently, so get into the habit of recording your voicemail message to reflect where you are and how you'd prefer those getting in touch with you to respond. An old, out-of-date greeting can leave a negative impression, especially when it's clearly inaccurate. For example, it's December 18th and your voicemail says you'll be out of town for Thanksgiving. An up-to-date and accurate voicemail greeting leaves the positive impression that you're on top of your schedule and give appropriate attention to your voicemails. For example, "I'm in the office Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of this week leading up to Christmas." Likewise, Frank could also say. "This is Frank Smith. I'm in the office today. Please ..."
2. Leave helpful information
Don't waste time telling callers you're out of the office, away from your desk, or on the other line all in one greeting. This can be assumed considering you didn't pick up the phone. Instead, provide specific and helpful information such as when you'll be back in your office or alternative ways you can be reached, be it by email or through an administrative assistant. For example, "if this is urgent, please dial ## to speak to ______. I can also be reached at email@example.com, as I check my emails regularly." If you offer callers an out to reach an assistant, test it on occasion and be sure it works for you.
3. Be specific about what they should include in their message (instructions)
Consider that your callers may be calling from a cell phone. Perhaps they are calling from a noisy environment, and they also may be in a hurry. In addition to keeping your greeting short and concise, be sure to speak very clearly and slowly enough to ensure that the caller has 100% confirmation they have reached your mailbox. Upon recording your greeting, be sure to end your greeting by pressing the appropriate command button within your voice mail system fairly quickly after you have stated your last word. This creates that ‘beep’ tone that callers hear that triggers them to leave their message. If you happen to wait for 4-5 seconds after you have concluded your greeting to press your associated ‘end greeting’ command, then your callers will also have to wait those same 4-5 seconds in eager anticipation for the coveted beep tone.
4. Use discretion when including humor.
Leaving a memorable voicemail message or voicemail greeting can help you get the call back you're seeking, but only when done correctly. Humor or offbeat material can help you in this cause, but it can easily lead to awkward reactions and misunderstandings. It's a good bet to keep your messages "business casual" at the very least.
5. Always listen back to your outgoing message
It may have sounded good when you recorded it, but hearing it back through the phone can sound very different. Listen to it and critique it as though you're listening to someone else's message. Pay attention to your tone. Do you sound enthusiastic, reserved, or even bored? Is it clear to the caller how you'd like them to proceed? Is it up to date? In any creative effort, the second and third takes can be leagues better than the first, so even when you think you've got it, give it another go and see how you can make it better. This attention to detail can lead to very positive impressions, especially for first time callers. Also, it is a good idea to occasionally call yourself as if you are one of your callers. Dial the full phone number and listen to the entire experience. You may be surprised at the result. Many voice mail services or systems add on those canned and optional phrases after your greeting. They offer callers the ability to ‘send a page’, ‘enter a callback number’ or perhaps even more fairly worthless and outdated offerings. They are almost always optional in terms of your ability to offer them. Pull out your manual and experiment with excluding these lengthy canned options. They simply create frustration and eye rolling from your callers. They really just want the coveted beep tone as fast as they can get it.
So what we end up with can be as simple as the following sample greating.
“Hi, this is Frank. For Tuesday, I’ll be out of the office all day, but I am checking this mailbox frequently. Please leave a message.”
Simple, and if Frank pressed ‘#’ or whatever his greeting ‘ender’ is fairly quickly, we’re talking about a very painless greeting that conveyed important information to the caller in less than 7 seconds. Perhaps stylistically or logistically, Frank needs to say a bit more. Try this one:
“Hi, this is Frank. Today is Tuesday and I am traveling all day. Please leave a message and I’ll return your call by the end of the day, or if your call is urgent, press zero to be transferred. Thanks for calling!”
It’s still short, conveys an option and suggest to the caller they will hear back from you (but you MUST adhere to calling back).
Many services and phone systems allow additional features that include the ability for callers to press a key to ring your cell phone or other device. You can even have the caller state their name so that you can ‘screen’ the call before taking it. Be careful with some of these features as they can generate negative impressions if not managed properly. However, if managed properly, you can also generate the impression and reality that you are highly accessible which can be a very positive impression.