Voicemail:  can’t live with it, can’t track down the guy who invented it to kill him.  Just kidding. Voicemail is wonderful, until you find yourself wasting time listening to someone’s lengthy VM greeting, lengthy messages left on your voicemail, or messages in which the caller didn’t bother to leave a callback number.

Here are a few quick tips to make voicemail a bit less tedious:

1.  Skip others’ voicemail greetings

Why wait through someone’s entire (outgoing) message?  You don’t have to!

Business / Office Systems:  most corporate voicemail systems let you skip the voicemail greeting by hitting 1, #, or * during the greeting.   You’ll have to experiment to determine which works for the system you’re calling.

Here’s a related tip:  when recording your voicemail greeting (or “outgoing message), consider adding a brief phrase at the end of your message along the lines of, “If you’d like to skip this greeting in the future, hit the (1, #, or *) key.”

Cellular Systems: the same technique works here —

  • Sprint:  1
  • T-Mobile: #
  • Verizon:  *
  • AT&T:  7

Hitting these keys will enable you to skip the VM greeting of whoever you’re calling, as well as the accompanying automated message from the cellular provider.

Here’s a tip, if your friends utilize a variety of carriers: consider modifying how your frequent contacts are listed in your cell’s address book.  For example, Rupert uses T-Mobile.  Instead of listing him in your address book as Rupert, list his name as Rupert #.  When you get his outgoing message / greeting, hit # and you can leave your message.

2.  Clean up your own outgoing message

Years ago, a flight attendant on a Southwest flight offered the following during the safety briefing:  “…and for those of you who’ve never ridden in a car, here’s how you can fasten your seatbelt…” Underscoring the inanity of telling a group of people how to do something 99.999% of them had previously done thousands of times, it was wonderful.

I only wish everyone had this sort of common sense when they record their voicemail greetings.

It’s not as though answering machines – and by extension, voicemail – were invented yesterday.

Everybody gets it:  you aren’t going to answer the phone.  I need to leave a message.

Whether you’re “away from my office, busy, in a meeting” is moot:  you ain’t answering, period.  So there’s no need for a lengthy explanation.  (There’s no need for ANY explanation, actually.) Taking this a step further, if someone can’t figure out what to do when they get any sort of voicemail message, I’m not sure I want to call them back.

Here’s what I’d recommend:

You’ve reached Bob’s voicemail box.  To skip this message, hit #.  Please leave a brief message.

Alternative:

Hey, you’ve reached Stan’s voicemail.  You know what to do at the beep.

What if you’re on vacation?

I’m out of the office this week. This is Kevin; I’ll be back on the 24th and will respond then.

You get the picture.  I think the bare minimum is:  identify yourself, in case your caller mis-dialed.  Other than that, see the seatbelt story above.  Just about everything else is fluff.

3.  Leaving messages

4 rules:

  1. Be brief
  2. Leave your number – even if the person you’re calling has called you dozens of times.  Don’t make them look it up!
  3. If the message you’re going to be leaving is really important, hang up before the prompt, write your message on a piece of paper, practice it, and then redial
  4. Be brief

I hope these tips help; if there are others you’ve discovered or developed, please share them by commenting.

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3 Comments on Make voicemail more tolerable – in 3 easy steps

  1. bob says:

    If they “know what to do at the beep”, why do you feel the need to tell them that in your (alternative) outgoing message?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    I don’t tell them what to do, I’m just inviting them to leave a message. For example, Bob, you know what you can do with your comment. ;-) You’re right, of course, I could simply have my name as my message, and most people would figure it out. Someone who works for me does just that… and it works.

    [Reply]

  2. K-eM says:

    Leaving Messages:
    My biggest frustration with messages that get left for me is the phone numbers. Most people don’t realize that they are rattling it off too fast and might have even started to move the phone away from their mouth while saying it.

    If I had a dime for every phone number that has been left on my VM that is unintelligible…

    So, SPEAK SLOWLY and ENUNCIATE your phone number.

    When leaving a VM message, I’ll often say my number twice at the end while speaking slowly and enunciating. By doing that I’ve given them 2 chances to write it down correctly and they are less likely to have to listen to my entire message again in order to get the number written down.

    [Reply]

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