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Does Manager Tools have advice on the professional greeting that I should have when people call my voice mail?

I have had a corporate format in a previous role and have also received suggestions that I should include words similar to 'please let me know the purpose of your call'.

What suggestions does this forum have?

stephenbooth_uk's picture

I just read the show notes on [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/10/how-to-leave-a-voicemail/]how to leave a voice mail[/url] and the [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2181&highlight=voice... thread[/url] on the message board, there are a couple of mentions, with examples, of the out going message in the thread. Maybe this will be a subject for a future cast?

It's probably worth listening to the cast as many of the same principles would apply, certainly c, d and e from the Introductory Points:

[quote]c. Content is Professional
d. Tone is Pleasant
e. Duration is BRIEF[/quote]

My personal preference is to have a brief 'standard' out going message along the lines of:
[quote]"Hello, this is Stephen Booth. I'm sorry but I'm away from my phone right now, please leave your name, number and a brief message. I'll get back to you as soon as I can."[/quote]

then change it to a specific message when needed (when I'm away from the office for an extended period) along the lines of:
[quote]"Hello, this is Stephen Booth. I'm unavailable from Monday 4th February until Tuesday 12th February. If you leave your name, number and a brief message I will get back to you as soon as I can, alternatively please call my colleague Joe Smith on 0121 303 XXXX."[/quote]

I really dislike the automated default messages that many companies have that just say something like "There is no answer, please leave your message after the tone.", messages where the is a lot of background noise are also a pet peeve (although that's as much an extension of my distaste for open plan offices as anything else).

What do other people think?

Stephen

HMac's picture

I agree with Stephen's outline - keep it professional, and edit out anything that's unecessary (for example, to "leave your message after the tone" - they know what to do!).
My only difference is that I suggest that you NOT make it a practice to update your message on a daily basis with that day's particulars. I have three reasons:

1. You're giving yourself a daily To-do item keeping it up to date.
2. People generally aren't that interested in your whereabouts, and professionals expect and understand that we'll do our best to return the call at your earliest convenience.
3. It's pretty tacky when I get someone's voicemail and there's an announcement that's out of date (it's Thursday, and the announcement says: "On Tuesday, I will be in meetings...").

Best wishes,
-Hugh

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="HMacNiven"]My only difference is that I suggest that you NOT make it a practice to update your message on a daily basis with that day's particulars. I have three reasons:

1. You're giving yourself a daily To-do item keeping it up to date.
2. People generally aren't that interested in your whereabouts, and professionals expect and understand that we'll do our best to return the call at your earliest convenience.
3. It's pretty tacky when I get someone's voicemail and there's an announcement that's out of date (it's Thursday, and the announcement says: "On Tuesday, I will be in meetings...").[/quote]

I wouldn't recommend a daily update either, mostly for your reason 3. If you're going to be away from the office for the next few days so won't be able to pick up the voice mail for a while it can reduce the number of repeat messages you get ("Just following up to see why you haven't responded to the message I left you yesterday.") It also manages the expectations of anyone who thinks their message is urgent, if you tell them you're not going to get it for a few days they can look at alternatives. That's also why I try to arrange that there's someone else who can handle any urgent calls for me and leave their contact details in my out going message, if it is genuinely urgent they can either handle it or get a message to me.

Stephen

HMac's picture

Good points.

By the way - what's the location of the building in you ID picture? Trafalgar Sq?

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="HMacNiven"]Good points.[/quote]

Thanks

[quote="HMacNiven"]By the way - what's the location of the building in you ID picture? Trafalgar Sq?[/quote]

It's in Chamberlain Square in Birmingham, a couple of hundred miles from Trafalger Square. It's the entrance to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. One of my hobbies is photography, I took that photo in 2004. There's a larger version [url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v375/stephenbooth_uk/BirminghamUK/BIRM....

Stephen

iann22's picture

To summarise what I have learnt here; the key items in my professional, brief & pleasant greeting should be:

1. My name – should this include my surname or not?

2. My company – but what if I am a contractor (who may be taking calls from persons outside of the main contract)?

3. When I will call back by.

To return to my original point – and the key message that I took from the voice mail podcast – the principle of voice mail is to progress an (unsynchronised) conversation. Hence the question: Would it be pertinent to ask the caller to 'state the reason for their call?

I have also concluded that I won't update my v-mail daily with the date.

And I now believe Birmingham to be a picturesque metropolis :wink:

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="iann22"]To summarise what I have learnt here; the key items in my professional, brief & pleasant greeting should be:

1. My name – should this include my surname or not?[/quote]

I would. You don't know who is going to be listening to this message. they could be your mom, your spouse, your boss, a peer, a direct, a supplier, a customer, a potential employer, someone who found your number in an old company directory when it belonged to the person they are actually trying to contact or yet another person trying to call the take away around the corner that has the same number except the last two digits are transposed. Giving both your first and last name generally sounds more professional than just your first name (in my experience) and it makes it clearer if they have gotten through to the correct person or not. Neither of those things is likely to be harmful to your relationships but coming over as unprofessional or it being unclear if they have gotten through to the person they thought they were calling can damage relationships and lead to you getting voicemails requesting delivery of 3 twelve inch deep pan peperoni and a 9 inch thin base vege extra hot, as I once heard on a friend's voice mail.

[quote="iann22"]

2. My company – but what if I am a contractor (who may be taking calls from persons outside of the main contract)?[/quote]

It depends on which phone line it is, who the person on the other end is likely to be calling, the nature of the contract and who's site you're on. If they are likely to be calling you in the capacity of your role in the company the contract is with, especially if you're on site at that company, then I believe you'd give the company name of that company. If they're calling you in your capacity as a contractor (i.e. independant of the contract you are currently working on), especially if you're working on your own site then I believe you'd probably give your own company name.

[quote="iann22"]

3. When I will call back by.[/quote]

Dangerous. That creates an expectation in their mind that you will call back by that time. It's fine to tell them that you cannot call back before a particular time/date but you want to avoid where possible any commitment to respond by a particular time. My experience is that if you give a particular time people are more upset if you miss that time (even if you only miss it by 10 minutes and have a good reason) than if you were suitably vague about when you'd get back to them. "As soon as I can" usually works well for me, if I can't respond for a day or two (due to something more important coming up urgently) at least I've been honest about it.

[quote="iann22"]
To return to my original point – and the key message that I took from the voice mail podcast – the principle of voice mail is to progress an (unsynchronised) conversation. Hence the question: Would it be pertinent to ask the caller to 'state the reason for their call?[/quote]

Personally I'd find being asked to state the reason for my call rather abrasive, but then in the cast on how to leave a voice mail M&M do indicate that there are cultural differences in how voice mail is used and viewed so that might be quite accepatable elsewhere.

[quote="iann22"]And I now believe Birmingham to be a picturesque metropolis :wink:[/quote]

There are some lovely old buildings about the place but we've got our fair share of carbuncles (and more every year). We're also a thriving multicultural centre, a real melting pot of populations from the world over. If you're ever nearby and have time (we're about an hour from London by train, 2 hours by air and 3 to 10 by road) drop by and take a look, if you want a 'Native Guide' give me a call.

Stephen

terrih's picture

Whatever you end up saying, write it down as a script for yourself.

I have a coworker who said the name of the company wrong in his voice mail message. (he said "AirWAYS" instead of "AirLINES.") Granted it was probably his first day at the company, but still. :roll:

pmoriarty's picture

Hi. You've reached pmoriarty (first and last name). I'm sorry I can't take your call right now. Please leave me a message and I'll call you back as soon as I can. Thanks for calling! Bye!

I'm sure Marc has a 7-1/2 step cast planned for this. :)

eastcoastrob's picture

I prefer to update my message daily. The main reason I do this is to dispel any doubt that I am in the office (keeping people from calling my boss if the matter is urgent). My greeting goes:
"February 14th you've reached the voice mail of Robert Taylor with Xerox. I am in the office today. Please leave a message and I'll be back to you within 3 business hours"

pmoriarty's picture

[quote="eastcoastrob"]I prefer to update my message daily. The main reason I do this is to dispel any doubt that I am in the office (keeping people from calling my boss if the matter is urgent). My greeting goes:
"February 14th you've reached the voice mail of Robert Taylor with Xerox. I am in the office today. Please leave a message and I'll be back to you within 3 business hours"[/quote]

Robert,

Don't most voicemail systems allow you to change your greeting from outside of the office? Everyone I've used as far back as I can remember does.

eastcoastrob's picture

Paul,
That is true. A big part of what I'm trying to do is manage the expectations of the caller. I have had far too many experiences where I have left messages for people who were out but didn't change their voicemail. If everyone managed their voicemail greeting effectively I could cut that out but until then I feel it is important to leave callers with a clear picture of what they can expect.

iann22's picture

Thanks for everyone's input; I have decided to go with:

[b]Hi, this is First_Name Last_Name from Dept_Name.

I am in the office today, but unable to answer the phone at the moment.

Please leave a short message, stating the reason for your call, and I will call you back as soon as I can. Thank you.[/b]

TSY1512's picture

I've been enjoying this discussion and wanted to share what works for my situation.

[u][b]First, here's what I do. To keep things simple, I've only included an example of when I'm in the office:[/b][/u]

[b]1[/b] -Hello, you've reached the voicemail of *kimmer smith* with *company name*.

[b]2[/b] -To skip this message, press 1 now.

[b]3[/b] -Today is February 19th. I'm in the office but away from my desk at the moment. Please leave a message and I'll do my best to return your call by the end of the day. BEEP.

[b][u]Second, here are the reasons why:[/u][/b]

[b]1[/b] -Saying your first and last name confirms the caller has reached the right person. Same goes for the company. Sure most of the people calling me know this stuff, but it's those who don't (the least common denominator) that I'm catering to. I wouldn't want an outsider calling in and hearing an informal "Hey this is *kimmer*, you know what to do, BEEP". That wouldn't represent my company well. (Yes, that was exaggerated to make a point.)

[b]2[/b] -If you have a long voicemail greeting, please help your callers by telling them *in your greeting* how to bypass it and do it *at the beginning*. I call several of my colleagues multiple times a day. It's just the nature of our working relationship. I hate having to listen to the greeting every time I want to leave a message. I love it when someone's greeting saves me from "voicemail hell".

[b]3[/b] -February 19th - Yes, I change my greeting every day. I have it setup as a recurring task in Outlook (with my script in the notes field of the task) so it's the first thing I do when I get to the office. I takes less than 30 seconds and now it's such a habit that I do it while waiting for my computer to boot up. I do the daily update because I like people to know that I actually am in the office and not wonder if my greeting is accurate. [b]A tip:[/b] Be conscious of the tone of your voice when doing this. If you're not, people will start to notice if you're having a bad day from the tone in your voicemail greeting.

"I'll return your call by the end of the day." <-- I know some are worried about the obligation this creates. Don't say it if you're not going to do it. And maybe it will not work for your situation. I've found this satisfies the caller and sets their expectations up front. Sure, it creates an obligation for me. And maybe your line of work won't let you respond to everyone by this time. Even if I don't have an answer to the caller's question, I'll make sure I call them by the end of the day so they at least know I'm working on it. Like Horstman's Laws says: "More communication is better...Pick up the phone, provide an update. Admit you're behind..."

That's the simple version. Our company voicemail allows for you to set almost an infinite number of greetings for internal callers, external callers, busy line greeting and an afterhours greeting.

CHEERS to the joyful minutia of Corporate Life!

TSY1512's picture

And if you have international callers, it's nice to have a short greeting in a maximum of 2 languages. In my work, it's your local language first (Mandarin, German, etc.) and a common regional or worldwide language (English) second.

MattJBeckwith's picture

[quote="terrih"]Whatever you end up saying, write it down as a script for yourself.

I have a coworker who said the name of the company wrong in his voice mail message. (he said "AirWAYS" instead of "AirLINES.") Granted it was probably his first day at the company, but still.[/quote]

Yes, that can be embarrassing. Many years ago I was guilty of not scripting my greeting and I got a message that said, "will you be back on Tuesday [b]or[/b] the 4th? Tuesday is the 2nd." Ever since then, I have scripted my greeting.

I have also heard a new employee's away greeting reference his former employer - yikes!