I get asked about voice mail all the time. The first obvious questions are “Should I leave a voice message?” and “If I leave one, what should I say?”
Once again, things are changing rapidly. Many of us discover that our voice mails have no listeners. How many times have you received a return call, only to have the other person say “What’s up?” They clearly didn’t hear your message; they just hit “send” on their phone and called you back. (Not to be ungrateful for return calls, but now I have to tell my story again if it was a detailed voice message.)
An excellent suggestion was made on a recent group role-playing session. One of my female advisors said she’s changed her outgoing message to say “And please tell me a good time and day to return your call so we can connect.” She has removed the classic “I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”
I agree with this idea. Phone tag has been reduced greatly by people who don’t even listen to voice mails plus those that ignore any calls you make. But if someone IS trying to reach you, then randomly trying them back becomes harder than ever.
Changing your outgoing message is a good idea, but embracing the concept of scheduling phone dates is better. If you are scheduling 95 percentage of your outbound dials to people that have already agreed to a specific time to talk, you reduce:
The need for voice mail.
The concern about playing phone tag.Your efforts trying to get folks on the phone.
- Your efforts trying to get folks on the phone.
On the (rare) occasion that your phone date does not pick up when you call at the specified time, your choices are:
Wait 5 minutes and call again, or
Leave the following brief message: Hi, it’s Gail Goodman. It’s 10:00 and I’m at my desk ready for our call.”
Your next step is to stay at your desk if you were going to anyway, or continue on with your day. Reschedule the phone date via text or email (whatever is preferred by the prospect) and expect it to reschedule.
The challenge of voice mail is that it doesn’t have the import it used to have. People don’t pick up their phones; don’t regularly listen to voice mail; don’t return phone calls and overall, use their smart phone more as a pocket computer than a phone-phone. (I wish we called it something else, don’t you?)
Redesigning your phone life is more important than finding the “best words” for a voice mail in today’s culture. Get into the habit of scheduling phone dates and you won’t get crazed by those who ignore your voice mails and never return your calls.
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