Sometimes – this week for example – I spend oodles of time on the phone. In the course of arranging and conducting interviews for clients, I do lots of dialing. And as a communicator, I can’t help but analyze some of the things I hear after I punch in those 11-digit numbers.
For starters, I am amazed at the number of business people who answer the phone by saying just “Hello.” Right off the bat, I don’t know if I’ve called the right party, so I have to ask, “Is this Joe Jones?” Suggestion: Answer the phone with your name, even just the first name: “Hello, this is Chris speaking.” That would be nice.
What if you’re not there? What does your answering machine or automated voicemail system say? Believe it or not, this is what I heard when I phoned a consultant the other day: “You have reached the number that you have dialed. Please leave a message.”
Ha ha. Very funny. So, did I reach the right number? Are you operating a real business or is this your personal line and you’re using it to run your consulting gig on the side? In this case, I left a message for the person and followed up with an email to say, “I THINK I left you a message!” (Of course his email sig doesn’t list his number; another of my pet peeves.)
And then there are the mumblers. They leave YOU a voicemail message that’s so muffled that you can’t decipher their name. You actually phone them back, and you STILL don’t know who they are because they’ve also mumbled on their voice recording.
What about the secret vacationers? You dial their number and leave a message, expecting a call back in a day or two. Of course you don’t know that they’re on a three-week South Seas cruise, because their outbound message was mum on the subject. (I know some people don’t like to say they’re away because of security and privacy concerns. On my home phone I never reveal that I’m out of town, but I do so on my business line as a courtesy to clients, prospects and colleagues. If I’m going to be checking my messages from a remote location, I’ll often just say that I’m in meetings or away from the phone for the day. At least they’ll know why I’m not returning the call quickly.)
So, here are my suggestions:
- Always include your name in your outbound voicemail message.
- Speak clearly; don’t mumble.
- If you’re not able to return calls within 24 hours, say so.
- Use humour if you wish, but remember to follow suggestions 1-3.