How to Use Voice Mail Effectively

Dynamic communication is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become a dynamic communicator, you need to master three types of skills: conversation, writing and presenting.

Yesterday I exchanged several voice mails with one of my clients.  We asked and answered a lot of questions about a project without every speaking with one another.  We never had an actual conversation in which we were both on the phone at the same time, but we managed to make some progress on the project. 

Voice mail is a great tool, but it can also be frustrating.  Nothing takes the place of a real time face to face conversation.  My voice mail day got me thinking about some advice I presented in Straight Talk for Success on effective voice mail technique.  I decided that it is worth repeating here.

Voice mail messages are a like a conversation, only different. Voice mail is a form of asynchronous communication – a nice jargon term that means the communication doesn’t take place in real time. Nevertheless, in today’s world, it is a very common means of communication. Here are my thoughts on how to handle both sides of a voice mail conversation.

Sending Voice Messages

  • Clearly say your name, phone number, date and time at the beginning of every voice message you leave.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Restate your name and phone number at the end of the message.
  • Suggest a time for the recipient of the message to call you back. This will help reduce telephone tag.
  • Avoid a lot of detail in your voice messages. Say something like “I would like to discuss (topic) with you.”
  • If you reach the time limit on a voicemail, you have probably spoken too long. Cancel and re-record your message. Be succinct.
  • When you send a message to a distribution list, say who is on the list at the very beginning of your message.

Receiving Voice Messages

  • Keep your outgoing voice mail greeting brief.
  • Keep your outgoing voice mail greeting current.
  • Clearly state the time period covered by your greeting.
  • Tell callers how they can reach you when you are not in the office.
  • Tell callers when they can expect a response or return call from you.
  • Make sure your voice mail box is available to receive messages. Clear it out regularly.

The common sense point here is simple.  Face to face, in person conversation is the best way to communicate with others.  Telephone calls are net best.  Voice mail is a distant third.  Still. voice mail can be a wonderful tool that enhances your productivity – when you use it correctly.  If you use the common sense tips above, you will be able to use voice mail effectively.

That’s my take on how to use voice mail effectively.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your best ideas for using voice mail.  As always, thanks for reading.


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