February 2000

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF VOICE MAIL

Does anyone remember life before voice mail? Here are tips to make voice mail work for both the caller and the "callee":

* Encourage callers to leave detailed messages.
* Tell callers how to bypass your greeting (such as "Press the # key") to leave a quick message.
* Instruct callers how to review their message, or how to transfer to an operator.
* Update your greeting often to reflect your schedule and leave special announcements.
* Check your voice mail regularly.
* Return all voice mail messages within 24 hours.
* Answer your phone when you are at your desk, unless you are meeting with someone or genuinely need to be uninterrupted.
* Leave your e-mail address, fax number, or mailing address on your greeting if this information will help callers reach you.
* If you need certain standard information from callers, use your greeting to prompt them for it.
* Remind callers to leave a phone number, especially for frequent callers that may assume you have it handy.

Follow these tips when leaving a voice-mail message for someone else:

* Speak slowly, and repeat your name and phone number at the beginning and end of the message.
* Spell your name for recipients that may want or need the correct spelling.
* Leave a detailed message, not just your name and number.
* Keep your message brief--60 seconds or less.
* Give your message a headline, so the listener can quickly judge its priority.
* Enunciate carefully, to communicate professionalism as well as to make certain your message is clear.
* Be specific about what you want, to avoid prolonged phone tag.
* Don't leave messages when calling from places with high-volume background noise.
* Don't leave a series of repeat messages with the same information. Leave one detailed message, and follow up with a fax or an e-mail.
* When using a cell phone, consider whether a bad connection or interruption could be a problem. *


Source: Customer Service for Dummies, 2nd ed., by Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, IDG Books, Worldwide.



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