If my memory serves me, it was 1996. I was working with a very enthusiastic and talented team of recruiters in Brisbane. We had had a particularly arduous week, and on a Friday night we decided to go for a couple of quiet ales outside the CBD, so we all piled into one of the consultant's cars and were about ten minutes out of the CBD when we all said in unison and at a volume, 'VOICEMAIL!' It was our policy at the time to change our voicemail message each day, and our CEO would often check the voicemails to ensure that we were in the habit and adhering to the policy. We had all forgotten! So we headed back into the office, recorded the message and then went for probably too many cleansing ales. Voicemail and its use have matured as a technology and tool for business. It is still a very important business tool, but it can also hinder productivity. It is both powerful and a scourge!
The power of voicemail lies in its ability to communicate a message even in your absence. An effective voicemail message can ensure your clients, prospects and colleagues understand and know your situation exactly. You can clearly state when you will be reviewing messages or give the names of alternate people who can be contacted. You can also give further contact information such as email addresses and mobile phone numbers.
The critical point here is that you need to think about your message. Take time in constructing the message to save you time by not having to deal with unnecessary calls.
On the downside, people hide behind voicemail by avoiding effective communication by screening all calls and not returning messages. In many instances, it is simply impossible to actually speak with someone without first scheduling the call. In the recruitment industry, much of a consultant's time is spent on the phone, which amplifies the benefits and downsides of voicemail. To get the most out of voicemail, here are some tips:
- Change your message daily and mention the current date. This means that the person hearing the message is aware that you are in the office today and you have heard all of the previous messages.
- Take time to compose your message. If you are away on extended leave, then direct the person's call. If you receive the same type of calls regularly requesting information, make sure you include the information in your message.
- Encourage callers to leave a message that is more than, 'Please give me a call.' Ask for detail so you can respond in kind.
- If you are not going to be checking messages for a while, make sure you tell the callers and give them an alternative.
- If you are leaving a message and it's with someone you don't know, then give the detail of the message first and your contact details last. Many people delete messages from people they don't know.
- Follow up any voicemail messages with an email specifically mentioning your voicemail message.
- Repeat your phone number or alternative contact twice, either when you create your voicemail or leave a message on someone else's voicemail.
- Do not create or leave messages longer than twenty seconds.
As with every technology, there is the good and the bad. Voicemail can be a powerful tool when used and understood correctly.