Five Tips On Leaving A Great Voicemail (The Case Against “Hey, Call Me Back.”)

  1. Include the who, what, and how. Who are you? Don’t assume the person remembers who you are, especially in service industries where the receiver may get 100 calls a day. Starting the call with your name is critical for giving the listener a starting point to orient themselves to the situation. What are you calling about? Only saying, “hey, call me back” is frustrating for the person trying to help because they don’t have context. If there was a prior conversation, remind them what was discussed. And ask a question or say exactly what you want done. This gives the operator, service provider, or friend a chance to prepare for the next interaction. How do you want them to call back? Leaving a call back number or email address is important because there’s no guarantee that they know how to reach you. If the other person has 10 missed calls and 17 voicemails, it can be hard to sort out the phone number, or at least creates additional work.
  2. Pause after sentences, names, and numbers. Taking down notes from voicemails is hard to do. People often talk fast. Collapsing sentences with critical information makes it hard for person on the other line to write it all down. So many times I’ve transcribed voicemails but missed critical details like the name and number because the person rushed to the next sentence. “Call me back at 1234567890mynameisjimgivemeacallokthanksbye” makes the name and phone number so hard to remember. So…
  3. Say numbers in groups of 2 or 3. The dashes in phone numbers are useful not just for reading, but for talking and listening too. Saying the phone number in small bunches like 123-456-78-90 makes the other person’s job so much easier. Success is having the other person not have to replay your message.
  4. Spell your first and last name. In service industries, logs are often kept for call histories. Having an exact match for your name is helpful not just for facilitating whatever you need help with but also ensuring that future communication goes smoothly.
  5. If there’s something wrong in the person’s voicemail greeting, tell them. The person who makes the voicemail greeting will never hear it again, unless they call themselves, which I’ve never done. This means that an old out-of-office vacation greeting message may remain for months or years afterwards. No one wants that. Let them know. It wasn’t left on purpose.

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