Women at Work: Voice mails are a necessary evil

Voice mails: I abhor listening to them (but do it), and quite frankly have become quite skilled at ignoring the blinking light on my office phone.

And, knowing how I do not like to listen to my voice mails in a real timely fashion, I hesitate leaving them as I assume there are other women like me.

Voice mails, both having and checking, are a necessary evil. Although I am unable to motivate you enough to check your voice mails in a timely fashion, I do urge that your messages be checked at least once a day. If your job allows you more time to check, that is great as well. You just never know what could be on a voice mail – new clients, existing clients with an issue you easily could resolve and be their hero, or family members with an important message.

Now, let's think about your greeting currently on your office phone. Is it the same old boring recording that makes people want to hang up or does it pique their interest enough to leave a potentially important message? When I say old boring recording, this would be an example, "Hello, you have reached the desk of so-and-so; I am unavailable to take your call, but your call is important to me, so please leave a message and I will return it as soon as possible."

Lesson number one from that greeting? Never, ever use the word "unavailable." Experts suggest an outgoing message with that in it can scare off potential clients and colleagues, as it is too vague. Does it mean you are in the bathroom and will be back in five minutes, or are you on maternity leave and will be back in 12 weeks?


Another tip? Do not ever let your children record your outgoing message at work. My girls played a joke on me several years ago and changed mine to, "You have reached Kristen Asleson," followed by a long pause, and then a long groan. Thankfully I found it less than 24 hours after their brilliantly thought out prank.

It's time to get creative with your greeting with proper etiquette.

First, limit the background noise. There is nothing more irritating than trying to hear a greeting when there is a vacuum whirring in the background, a dog barking and sirens all at the same time.

Be unique. Every business strives to differentiate themselves from the competition, so why not start with your greeting? Add a little fun and humor. Just remember, this is a first impression often times, but it doesn't hurt to have enough pep in your voice with a little "off" message to pique the caller's attention. You do not have to sound like a robot, nor do you have to sound like an out-of-touch dingbat (for lack of a better word).

Smile, smile, smile while you record your greeting. Your voice will relay you are smiling and positive in a greeting. I'm smiling as I write this, and I bet you can pick up on that? In all seriousness, the sound of a smile helps create a tone that conveys how much you care about the person leaving the message and what they have to say.

As much as I hate this, I force myself to write out my greeting, practice it and then record it. It is much easier to leave out unnecessary pauses and "ums" when you practice it.

Reassure your callers they have reached you and your business. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a recording with no identifying information. Messages do not get left when the caller is unsure whom they reached.

Ready, set, go! Let's get recharged about our voice mail greeting and leaving messages! Emails are great, but voice mails always will be around.

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