Voice Mail Still Serves a Purpose

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

In a previous posting I discussed the importance of thinking through a response to an email that caused you to become angry or frustrated. Even though email (and texting) has become the primary tool for organizational communication, the proper use of voice mail still plays an important role in conveying or eliciting information.

As with email, you need to explain in your message what you are seeking (spelled out in the subject line of email) or information you are conveying. The first thing is not to think that someone recognizes your voice; you should give your name and who you represent if calling someone outside your organization. It also helps to let the other person know when you called and when you might be available to speak, especially of you are in a different time zone.

Consider the receiver of your message. You will want him or her to be prepared to give you the needed information on the return call. This way you’ll reduce the back and forth and have a more productive exchange. If the call was simply just to say “hello” and there is no business-related discussion involved and, therefore, no need for call back, simply say so.

When you leave a message, it does not have to be a presentation or a story. Get to the one or two points quickly that you want to make, along with the assistance you need, and leave it at that. Most of all, don’t leave a message that simply says, “Call me.” First it does not explain the reason for the request, and second, it does not say anything about the level of importance. Also, it’s a bit abrupt.

It’s All in the Message

One of the usual mistakes is not having an up-to-date message or having one that misrepresents your situation. If you will be on vacation or out of the office for any reason, make sure that you are clear and accurate about this and when you will be back in the office. This way, you manage people’s expectations. And when you are back in the office, update your voice mail recording.

When you leave your return number, speak clearly and slowly. How many times have you had to play back a voice mail message from someone who provided a call-back number too quickly — as the last part of the call?  And for courtesy’s sake, provide a call-back number at both the beginning and end of the call.

Properly using voice mail shares a number of similarities with email. Both approaches need the right balance of information, tone, clarity and purpose. As with email, if you want your voice mail message to be treated with the respect and importance it deserves, then consider how best to frame it — even if you need to hone it by deleting and rerecording.

Practice makes for a better response.

About Steve

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at www.solutions2results.com.