from the Blog

Ineffective Voice Mails and other Phone Stuff



How many voice mails do you receive each day at work or home?

Multiple times a day someone makes a deliberate attempt to reach out to you – to convey a message and/or ask for a response. This is not a very scientific statistic, but I know that more than 30% of the voice mails that I receive are not effective and do not accomplish their intended goal. How can we make sure that your voice mails do not become one of these statistics?

In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Thomas Watson accomplished the first successful ‘bi-directional transmission of clear speech’ – the telephone call. In 2017 many of us spend as much as 30-50% of our working time on the phone. What are some of the things that we can do to make this time more effective?

“Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

The phone is an incredible tool and has increased the efficiency of our communication, or has it? This was highlighted by a couple of voice mails that I received last week – one that was rock solid and one that – well, frankly, it had a negative impact – a waste of the callers time and mine.


Let me offer a few tips that I think will make your telephone communications more effective – we will even touch on voice mail.


Tips and Personal Opinions

  • Frame of Mind: Prepare yourself before making the call. Be clear about the purpose for the call, what your desired outcome is. This preparation is especially helpful if you have to leave a message.

Preparation shows respect for the receivers time and will enhance the effectiveness of the call.

  • Identify Yourself: When you place a call to someone, announce yourself – first and last name, and who you are with. This introduction gives the receiver an opportunity to mentally make a connection before you dive into the meat of the conversation.
  • Clear Expectations: Phone calls are a lot like mini-meetings. Setting the stage for the call with background (as necessary) and clear expectations will make the call more effective. Remember, unless they were just there waiting for your call, you have just interrupted whatever they were doing to accept your call. Let them make the mental shift so that the call can be more effective.
  • Identify Yourself (it’s different): If you are on the receiving end, please announce your name – first name is ok here – they know who they called. Identifying yourself on the receiving end is more personable than just ‘hello’. It also catches switchboard errors before someone potentially gets embarrassed.

” . . . he answers “Hello Sweetheart” . . . and it’s not his sweetheart . . . oops”

  • Speaker Phones: Hands free in the office or car – without a tether – is quite freeing. It can also be quite distracting on the other end with road noise, clacking of the keyboard, or shuffling of papers. This can adversely affect that quality of the call and the value of the communication. Consider the use of a quality hands free headset to improve the quality. AND, don’t forget, always . . . ALWAYS . . . always . . . let someone know if there is anyone else with you in the room or car that is also listening to the call.
  • Voice Mails: Announce yourself – first and last name, who you are with, and the purpose of the message. (The preparation we covered first pays dividends here). Be clear and concise. Close with your name and phone numbers. Consciously slow down when sharing your phone number. A voice mail is generally ineffective if the receiver cannot identify who left the message and/or how to return the call. (I share my number even if it is someone that I know – it just makes it easier for them to call me back).
  • Alternate Assistance: Do you really need to talk to the project manager? Or can the administrative assistant get you the same information? Who else can help you if the person you are calling is not available?


Some Pet Peeves (bonus material):

  • Speaking Volume: We all know that person that is just plain louder when they are on the phone (guilty as charged) – somehow volume pushes the electrons through the air / line faster. Just as we don’t text in all caps, consider your phone voice and volume. This can be especially important when taking calls in public spaces where others can over hear your conversations (don’t get me started about using the phone in restaurants).
  • Ringtones: A normal ring tone – while still frowned upon in the middle of a church service – would be better then ‘who let the dogs out’. Think about how others will react to your choices.
  • Screening Calls: I may fall in the minority on this one, but I think that having the receptionist ask who is calling is the right thing to do. A good receptionist can solicit this information in a positive way so that it is not considered call screening. Anyone that is offended with giving the receptionist their name probably should be screened – just my opinion. If they follow my advice above about announcing themselves this becomes a non issue.
  • Transferring Calls: I read something the other day that I am going to try to put into practice with my team. We are going to start ‘connecting’ people instead of transferring them.

“To get you the best answer I would like to ‘connect’ you to our ___ department. Is that alright?”



We are all busy and the phone can consume a lot of our time. Let’s use these phone conversations as opportunities to enhance relationships.


This week . . . . consider your phone etiquette:

  • Proper preparation before making the call.
  • Respectful of the receiver’s time.
  • Clear direction and goal for the call
  • Circle back and summarize.



. . . . go have an Awesome Week!

Tom Trabue