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Become more efficient by using voice mail correctly

Today’s episode in our continuing video series on Productivity Tools for Leaders focuses on how to become more efficient in using voice mail.  Some of you may not be crazy about voice mail, particularly if you are at the receiving end, but I want to show you how voicemail is a business tool, which when used correctly, can and should make you more efficient and productive.

Use voice mail to amp up your efficiency

The key to becoming more efficient lies in specificity, both when it comes to your answering voice mail, as well as the voice mails you leave for others.

What your callers hear

Let’s start with your message, the one your callers hear. Whatever you do, don’t use the automated attendant voice; it implies that you don’t care enough to understand how to record a greeting. And if you don’t have the time or the intellect to personally record a greeting, what does that say to your callers? Yeah, exactly.  So let me give you a bad example, and a good example.

  • Bad: Hi, this is Merge. I can’t come to the phone right now, but please leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as possible.
  • Good: Hi, this is Merge and I’m sorry I missed your call. This week I’ll be in my office on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I’m flying to Vancouver which is where I’ll be speaking at a client event for the balance of the week. Please leave me your name, your number, and tell me how I can help you. I pick up messages frequently and I’ll make sure that either I or someone gets back to you promptly.

Note that there are some very significant changes between the two examples. First, tell people where you are, not where you’re not. Say “I am in the office this week” or “I’ll be tied up in sales meetings for most of today.” This may seem trivial but is subtly more powerful than you might realize. Your callers know you’re not at your desk – that’s why they were routed to voicemail – but you convey yourself in a much more positive and productive light when you say where you are.

Second, ask your callers to leave specifics. That way you can be prepared when you call back. If your caller simply says “Call me!” you have to phone to find out what the problem is and then call again once you’ve gathered the required information – not an efficient use of anyone’s time. You can’t make your callers leave a detailed message, but asking will definitely improve the odds. Third, tell callers when they can expect to hear back from you or offer them an alternative number to phone. Say “I’ll return all calls tomorrow” or “press zero to be transferred to our receptionist.” So that’s what YOUR voice mail message should say.

Leave efficient voice mails for others

But now let’s talk about the messages you leave for others. Here are two examples again:

  • The bad one: Hi, this is James from Acme Transport. Call me at 905 555 1212. And the odds are high that James rattled off his phone number way too fast, you’ll have to listen to the message several times to get it!
  • Here’s the good example: Hi Merge. This is James from Acme Transport. I’m calling to confirm your engagement details for this Friday. We’re looking forward to seeing you at 8 a.m. in the Niagara room. I’ll be waiting for you at the check-in area and we can do a final review of your audiovisual needs then. If you have any questions before then, please call me on my cell at 647 484 1212. Again, that’s James at 647 484 1212. Talk to you soon.

So, first, note that in the second version, James succinctly gave me all the information I needed. Unless there’s a problem, I don’t need to call him back, thus making us both more efficient and productive. And he repeated his telephone number; that gives me a chance to grab a pencil and paper to jot it down without having to replay the message. Finally, he closed his message pleasantly. Just because we are all dealing with our day-to-day madness, doesn’t mean that we can forget that our business conversations still have to be polite.

It can be done!

See, voicemail CAN make you more efficient and productive, but you have to give some deliberate thought and structure to both your outgoing recording and the messages you leave for others.

If you’ve been following this video series on tips to make leaders more efficient and effective all year, then you may have already realized that today marks #19.  If you’re here for the first time, you might like these recent posts on this very same topic.

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