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The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

Monday, June 27, 2005

Voice mail etiquette

The odds of getting someone's voice mail (or answering machine) are great these days. Often it is not that the person doesn't want to answer the phone, but that she is being pulled in many directions and so lets "the machine" answer the phone.

Since you might encounter a voice mail system when trying to reach someone, it is important that you leave a good message. Broadleaf Technologies has the following advice:
  • Briefly explain who you are and the nature of the call. Get to the point. Don'’t ramble or repeat yourself. Messages should be kept to 30 seconds or less. Studies have shown that listeners will "tune out" after 25 seconds. [If you are very familiar with the person, you will know if leaving a longer message is appropriate.]
  • If you need to speak with someone regarding a topic that will be long and detailed consider leaving a subject matter only message. For example, "Bob, I need to speak to you about... at your earliest convenience." Do not leave a long winded message as a substitute for a conversation.
  • Do not leave bad news, or messages of a personal nature in voice mail. Some messages are not appropriate for voice mail.
  • Be careful what you say and how you say it. Don'’t say something that you may regret. Most systems do not allow you to take back a message once sent. Be careful who might hear your message. Most voice mail systems allow messages to be forwarded to others. You may never know who will get a copy of your message.
  • It is usually not necessary to say the date and time of your message. All business voice mail systems provide a time stamp. It is the home answering machines that generally do not have date and time.
  • If you are leaving a message for someone who may not know you or remember your name you might mention it again at the end of the message with your phone number. [This is vital! Say your telephone number slowly so the person will have a chance to write it down. And consider spelling your name, since the person may not hear it correctly.]
  • Always slow down your speech when leaving information that needs to be written down. Unless they know shorthand they cannot write as fast as you talk....
  • If you want a callback leave a date and time that you expect to be available. Voice mail is an opportunity to reduce phone tag by arranging a callback time.
Two additional tips not on the Broadleaf web site:
  • If you are in the middle of a voice mail message and want to start over, you can try pressing the # key which may give you several options, including one to start over. This doesn't always work, so be careful!
  • If the message is critical important, consider writing a few notes on a piece of paper and have those notes in front of you. If the person answers the phone, you'll be organized! If voice mail answers, you'll be ready to leave a good message.


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