Many people can relate to the frustration of receiving a voicemail message that is unclear, incomplete, or so long-winded that even the sender wouldn’t want to hear it again. That’s probably the reason so many of us only listen long enough to find out who called and then delete the message and call the other person back.
Having taught telephone communication skills and written an eLearning program on the subject, I’ve discovered that people have a lot of strong feelings about when and how to leave a voicemail message!
Here are some of the most annoying voicemail mistakes people make and how you can avoid them:
1. Leaving garbled messages.
Often occurs when you try to call with a mouth full of food or you just don’t enunciate, forcing the recipient to listen to the message multiple times in an attempt to understand it.
Simple solution: Chew and swallow your food before picking up the phone, then speak up, speak slowly, and speak especially clearly when leaving a voicemail message.
2. Leaving long, rambling messages.
Sometimes occurs because you like to hear the sound of your own voice, or just haven’t thought about what you’d say if by some freak circumstance, the person you’re calling doesn’t answer. The recipient is then forced to either put the phone down and wait until you get to the point, or do what most people do– delete the message and just call you back to find out what you want.
Simple solution: Take a few seconds to plan what you’ll say BEFORE you pick up the phone. Odds are, you’re going to get voicemail, so be prepared with a clear, succinct message.
3. Being a serial messager.
Usually occurs because someone has made the mistake of giving you ALL their phone numbers and email addresses and you use all of them to send the same message.
Simple solution: Unless it’s a life and death emergency, leave one message in one place, then RELAX and wait for the person to call you back. Alternatively, find out people’s preferred method of communication and use that method only.
4. Leaving anonymous messages.
Occurs when you assume the recipient of your message will recognize your voice, even though you’ve only met once.
Simple solution: Leave your name at least once in your message. If you’re calling someone you don’t know, it’s nice to leave your name, and spell it, and the beginning and again at the end of your message in case the recipient didn’t catch it all the first time.
5. Failing to leave your phone number in the message.
Occurs when you assume others have your phone number and have memorized it, or at least have it handy, forcing the recipient to take the time (or not) to look for your number so he or she can call you back.
Simple solution: Even if the people you’re calling should have your phone number, you save them time looking it up by leaving it in your message. Speak the numbers slowly, so they can write them down, and as with leaving your name, leave the number at the beginning and the end of your message. Finally, if you say, “. . . and my number is (then pause) 713- . . .), it will usually allows the recipient enough time to grab a pen to write your number down.
6. Hanging up after voicemail has picked up.
Usually occurs when you haven’t thought about what you’d say when you got someone’s voicemail or some other shiny object has caught your attention and you’ve moved on to something else. The result? The recipient gets blasted with a dial tone instead of a real message.
Simple solution: If you’ve stayed on the line long enough for the recipient’s voicemail greeting to kick in, go ahead and leave a message.
7. Leaving Drive-by or Cliffhanger messages.
A drive-by message is a vague or ominous message with just enough information to scare the recipient, but not enough information for the recipient to take action. These are usually left on Friday afternoons at 5:30 pm, forcing the recipient to suffer the entire weekend worrying about the manager’s message stating, “I need to see you in my office first thing Monday morning,” or “We’ve got a problem. Let’s talk Monday.”
Sometimes these messages are left intentionally to make someone squirm. However, they can also occur when you don’t think about how the message will be received by the other person.
Simple solution: Don’t be a “drive-by message leaver”. Wait until Monday to talk to the person or if you have to leave the message, at least tell the person why you’re calling so he or she can prepare to talk with you Monday.
What other mistakes would you add to my list?
To learn more about Effective Voicemail Messaging and other communication skills, check out my book “Practical Communication,” in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.com