Ever call somebody, get their voicemail, and panic? Do you ramble on and on, and end the (one-sided) conversation feeling like an idiot? Or, given the option to erase and start again, give it yet another shot?
You aren’t alone. Nobody wants to sound like an idiot when the call recipient plays their voicemail. You hate to envision them having a good laugh, or shaking their head.
Even in today’s tech world, phones still play a huge part in business communication. You want to leave the best possible impression of your competence, friendliness, and professionalism.
Professional Voicemail Template
“Hello! This is Amy Jones calling from XYZ. I am calling regarding the order you placed with us. I had some questions and was wondering if you could please call me back. My hours are 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and I can be reached at (000) 000-0000. Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.”
This is a basic sample script you can use to tackle this issue. Print it out, put it by your phone, and you will be all set for most situations.
Here is a fun fact. When you speak on the telephone, people can tell whether or not you are smiling. Really. Humans can differentiate intonation in people’s voices. If you are smiling when you leave that message, you will come across as not only professional but friendly.
Length and Emphasis of Your Message
Let’s talk about the length of your message. Anything over thirty seconds is a loooong time. Think about listening to voicemails that you have received. Do some of them seem to go on and on? Is too much information being conveyed? Perhaps so. Script your voicemail, and practice it before leaving it.
Speak slowly and clearly. Enunciate. If the intended recipient has to repeatedly play your message, that’s irritating. Also, learn to moderate. Moderation in tone is super-important. It makes our voices sound interesting.
Nobody will be intrigued by the idea of speaking with someone who sounds like a robot. Sounding interesting and friendly, yet professional will give no one anything to complain about.
Another good way to practice is to think about calls you have received, yourself. When did you not mind calling back? Do you ever sigh, upon hearing someone’s voicemail and think oh, brother, this is going to be unpleasant? How about those messages where the caller speaks so quickly, or so quietly, you cannot hear them? These are all things to take into consideration when leaving your messages.
Thank them at the end of the message. It’s good manners, and it’s professional.
Professional and Friendly Choice of Words
Avoid the temptation to be a comedian. A lot of people think it’s funny to set up their phones with funny, or silly greetings, but for business, it’s time to be professional. Also, many of us are now using our cells for both personal and business use.
By remaining professional at all times, you won’t run into the mistake of being off-the-cuff or too casual with a business contact. This is especially important for job-hunters.
We suggest that you do include your available hours, lest your intended recipient calls you, gets YOUR voicemail, and has to leave a message. That is called “phone tag” and it gets old quickly.
Be personable and natural. This can take some practice. Don’t go overboard, but there is nothing wrong with being friendly.
Practice Your Script on Your Own Voicemail
Do you have to leave a lot of messages? If so, re-group in between, or your voice will convey the tediousness of your task. If you sound cranky and irritable, that is going to come through — and then who would want to return your call? No one. This is especially important in sales calls, where having a winning personality is vitally important.
Conversely, don’t go overboard with the perkiness. To someone who hasn’t had a cup of coffee, listening to a ridiculously over-the-top, perky message can be off-putting.
Aim for natural, personable, and professional. Things to avoid: “Uhhhh” and “Umm.”
Let’s discuss social anxiety when talking on the phone. This is a thing — it does exist — and you may have it, which makes this business of leaving voicemail messages even more difficult. It’s okay! With a little practice, it can be overcome.
- Call yourself! This way, no one can hear except you. First, make your script, and then give yourself a call. See how you sound. Hate it? Try again. And again. keep practicing until you feel like you sound good.
- Call a friend. Yes, this is a version of phone-a-friend. Ask for constructive feedback. Be ready to practice any rough spots.
Leave a Second Message on the Voicemail
Sometimes, you won’t get a call back. Don’t take it personally. People are busy and get inundated with emails, texts, and calls. If you need to speak with this person, here is an actionable example for a second call:
“Hello! This is Amy Jones calling, again. I’m sorry to bother you and I know you must be very busy. I still need to speak with you about your order number XXX. I can be reached between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at (000) 000-0000. I look forward to hearing from you.”
If you are able, sometimes you can follow up with an email. That may be your customer’s preferred method of communication.
Unfortunately, your sample script will not work for every situation. We have given you the bones, but it’s up to you to make sure you have pertinent information at the ready.
Is there a specific order or customer number? Will you be out of the office during the hours you normally leave on your messages? Make sure your information is correct before leaving that message.
If the Connection Was Interrupted
Did you get cut off? Oops. That can be fixed, so don’t be dismayed:
“Hello! This is Amy Jones again. I was cut off in my last message, so I’m trying again. I am trying to reach you regarding your order number XXX. I can be reached at (000) 000-0000 from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you.”
How is the noise level? If you are calling from a noisy spot, you may want to consider moving to a quieter location when leaving your voicemail, lest your intended recipient hears a lot of background noise, which is unprofessional. Nobody wants to hear that kind of a message.
We hope this has helped! Write that script and practice until perfect.
When Should I Call Back After Leaving a Message?
With business issues, you can attempt a new phone call once per day for three consecutive days if your message did not result in a callback. For personal contacts, you should start a maximum of two new attempts, with several days between each call.
It is common in a business context that the person in question is very busy and cannot find the time to call back. It may also happen that the person ran out of time or just forgot about your message after a few days. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone again, and if it’s urgent business, you can also contact their colleagues.
In a private environment, people are often more relaxed, and a person is more likely to get back to you when they have time for a more detailed conversation. It is also better to contact people via text messages, as private mailboxes are less likely to be tapped.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.