How Friendly is Your Outgoing Voicemail?

Have you ever been put off by an outgoing voicemail or auto-response email?

A lot has been written about email since it’s a terrifically effective marketing tool. Marketers and their writing staff understand that subject lines have to be appealing and accurate to entice people to open the email.

Not so for voicemails. And although we aren’t directly selling through voicemail, it’s time to think of it as a marketing message and treat it this way. After all, voicemail is customer-facing and for many, it’s their first introduction to you and your company.

No Place for Voicemails That Annoy or Intimidate

I’ve continued to hear voicemail like this over the years:

“Hello, you’ve reached <name> at <business>. I am either on another line or with a customer. Please leave me a message and your contact information and I will return your call at my earliest convenience. (Italics are mine.)

Is your outgoing voicemail putting off callers?
“Should I leave a voicemail or hang up?”

Frankly, I’m sometimes afraid to leave a message after hearing something like this. I don’t want to be the cause of an existential threat by inconveniencing the person behind the voice.

A few months ago, I came upon this kind of voicemail. I was afraid I’d stutter or lapse into babbling so I simply hung up and emailed the person.

I was intrigued enough to look for this person’s LinkedIn profile. She’s smiling and there are a couple of very nice testimonials from people who worked with her. She can’t be that bad. So why the intimidating voicemail?

I Stress Over My Outgoing Voicemail

I have some insights into the power of an outgoing voicemail message. Early in my relationship with my boyfriend, he told me I sounded “scary” on my business voicemail.

I was horrified to hear this.

My son agreed with him. “You do sound kind of mean, Mom.”

So I re-recorded my voicemail message over and over until I thought it sounded friendlier. I tried really, really hard to make sure I wasn’t speaking too fast (I grew up back East) and to tone down my accent. (I need ‘cawfee’ in the morning.)

I asked several people to review it, getting thumbs-up from all.

Son and BF both assured me the new message was better. Still, I listen to it every couple of months to detect possible unfriendliness or other unintended messages.

It’s important to sound approachable. It’s not like we can smile over the phone.

Tell Callers You Really Do Want to Talk to Them

My brother has the best outgoing message I’ve ever heard.

“You’ve reached Dan Chinitz at Creative Bath Sales. I can’t get to the phone right now but please leave me a message and tell me how I can help you and I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you for calling!”

Think about how that reads. Doesn’t it sound like Dan really wants you to leave a message? He’ll get back to you ASAP, and not at his “convenience.”

It’s always good form to return a call within one day, particularly if you say anything along the lines of “as soon as possible.” I’ve had return calls that are so far after my initial contact that I have to wrack my brain to remember who this person/company is and why I made the contact in the first place.

If you really struggle with finding time to respond to phone messages within business hours, do offer up your email or website as well as other ways to get in touch. No one cares if you respond to an email afterhours.

Make Sure You Leave a Vacation Message

When I was in the office world, I was regularly confounded by the number of colleagues whose voicemails didn’t mention they were out of the office or include this in an auto-respond email.

If I felt I was being put off, how did their customers (and potential customers) feel?

If you expect to get any emails or calls when you’re away, do everyone a courtesy and just say you are out of the office and when you will return.

  • If possible, refer callers to a colleague.
  • If you check your voicemail when you’re out of the office, it’s still good to let callers know you’re away so they don’t expect a prompt return call.
  • Keep your message short. Callers really don’t need to know if you’re sick or broke your leg.
  • If you’ll be out on long-term leave, have your calls forwarded to a colleague.

Now, how can I help you?

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Ruth Ann Monti is a writer for all things webby. She lives in sunny Scottsdale, AZ with her son.