If you get a voice mail like:

"Hey, it's John, call me back."

are you ethically required to actually call the person back?

Normally I would but I just picked up one of these messages and I thought, hey, I'm really busy and you didn't give me any reason to go out of my way to go call you. The best part is the voicemail was left at the office at 6:30pm when the guy knows I leave at 5pm... smells like someone just wants to throw the ball in my court about a topic I have no awareness of. So who has the responsibility to follow up? Me or the caller?


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

[quote="kf4lnq"] So who has the responsibility to follow up? Me or the caller?


The key principle, I think, is to keep the conversation moving forward. So if *you* have to leave a message it could be as simple as

"Hi Bob, this is John at xxx-555-yyyy I'll be glad to help you out when you get back to me. I'll be out Friday but I hope to talk to you soon."

M&M have said in other podcasts, "Give until it hurts" so extend a hand and leave a good helpful message.

kf4lnq's picture

Yeah, I know how to leave a voicemail I just wish other folks did.

Give until it hurts is pretty good advice though. Still, who do you think has the responsibility to follow up in this kind of case?

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="kf4lnq"]Still, who do you think has the responsibility to follow up in this kind of case?[/quote]

Gut feeling, you do, at the relative (to the other voicemails you have) level of priority indicated in the voice mail. If they don't say it's urgent or give you information so you'll know it's urgent then what reason do you have to treat it as urgent? Of course, if they're your boss, bosses boss &c then all bets are off and you should call them back immediately.

ETA: If they are throwing the ball into your court isn't it better, from a selfish self preservation point of view, to bat it back quickly before it becomes [i]fait acompli[/i] or, if it's not something that you could/should bat back, at least find out and deal with it promptly?


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge


Why wouldn't you return the call? You're clearly aware they would like you to.

Sure, they might be gaming you. They might be putting the ball in your court. They didn't leave a good voice-mail. The knew you weren't in the office at 6:30. They might be using you as a reminder for themselves. That does seem selfish.

So what?

bflynn's picture

Well, setting the obvious aside - that your example said the message was for John and your name is Joe. If its a wrong number, its your option.

When I call back, I start off the conversation with a verification that it was them leaving the message. Then, they get some gentle peer feedback on what happens when they leave a bad voice mail -

"when you leave a voicemail that doesn't tell me who you are and what you need, it winds up wasting time. I have to listen two or three times to figure out who I think the voicemail is from. Then I have to track you down and ask you if it was you. It might be days later before we get to find out you actually need. When you call again, could you leave your name and a reason you need to talk with me so I can be prepared when we talk?"

Not those exact words every time. Gentle tone.

And, its rare that someone who does this to me gets what they need on the spot. Not because I'm gaming them, but because I'm simply not prepared to give them what they need. So, now you can add "it wastes your time and mine" to the effects of a bad voicemail.


kf4lnq's picture

Well, all in all, good advice from everyone. I did call the person back (mid-day today when I got a chance in my set of priorities). I don't know, it still seems like you shouldn't be obliged to return any call or any communication for that matter with absolutely no substance, but that doesn't translate to what you actually should do to be effective.

I can't say I enjoyed the experience because I think it was a passive aggressive move on their part. But I'm glad I listened to you folks and took the mature action.

Thanks all.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Good for you Joe.

Sometimes it's hard being the grownup in these relationships. Especially when it seems everyone else is taking advantage. In the long run, you'll come out as exactly what you are - the person who is responsible and accountable. The others will build their own reputation.

That being said, when a salesman calls me and leaves me a call about how I need to call back about my account, that just gets deleted. That's just spam. :)

ashdenver's picture

I'll occasionally get a voice mail from a client who I haven't worked with in two years and haven't been assigned to the account for well over a year and I do just delete it.

If they've indicated "the world is going to fall apart unless I talk to you/someone," I'll forward a case over to Client Services to have them call the person back.

The difference here is that I've dealt with literally thousands of clients who've received my business card and that's the only phone number they can find at the time (though we've certainly provided them with the correct number dozens of times).

With this PA dude, I may have sent an email. "I'm booked up for the next three days. Can we accomplish some of this via email?"

jhack's picture

Horstman's first law: It's all about people.

Will's advice is spot on. Call back. Interactions with others aren't ledger entries into a scorebook where everyone has to be at the same standard of behavior. Be better, set a good example.

Ash, your point is well taken: if you've got thousands of acolytes you have to be selective. If you call back (maybe after hours...) and leave the name and number of the person they should call, over time, they'll learn you're not the one to call. Yeah, it's a hassle.


eagerApprentice's picture

I'm sure that MT did a podcast on voice mail and what-not fairly recently, and I remember that they were really strong against leaving this kind of "call me back >click<" sort of message, but I can't remember for the life of me what their advice was on if someone does this to you.

My gut says that you should call them back, however.

Still, MT has gone against my "gut" many times, so I'm putting it on my list to re-listen to that podcast. :)

Glad it all worked out OK~

itilimp's picture
Licensee Badge

My personal viewpoint is rise above it. Just because you know how to leave an effective voicemail doesn't mean that they do. If you get through to them directly, give them some feedback as to how to make voicemails more effective for you to help them in the future. If you get through to their voicemail, leave them a perfect example of an effective message and maybe they'll get the hint :)

Regardless of the quality of their message, they now have an expectation that they will receive a callback from you. If you don't and they chase you, that is likely to make their perception of you go down in terms of professionalism, reliability, etc. Not saying it's true - but it's all about their perception as well as your own.

dolphin's picture

That is a pet peeve of mine....those calls immediately go to the bottom of my "call back" list. In some cases if I know who they are I send an email requesting more information from the caller. I consider it common courtesy to leave a fairly detailed message.