How to leave a good voicemail message to satisfy customers

You’ve probably heard a lot in recent years about how valuable and important it is for your small business to have a polished, professional presence on the web and social media. But for all the focus you place on your online offerings, remember not to overlook a slightly more old-fashioned method of communication that many clients and potential customers still rely on every day: the telephone. If someone calls your business and has to leave a voice mail message, what kind of experience will they have?

Friday, January 30 is Inane Answering Message Day. The annual event isn’t an excuse to create a silly, humorous greeting and hope to get some laughs. Rather, the point is to encourage a more professional approach to voicemail. It’s a day to change, shorten, replace or delete any ridiculous or annoying voicemail greetings that mostly just wastes the time of those forced to listen to them, and may be doing your business more harm than good.

What are the best ways to keep your callers satisfied when they wind up in your voicemail? Here are some tips to help your customers feel like their call is truly important to you.

Script and rehearse
Write down your voicemail greeting and read it aloud a few times before you record it. Remember: practice makes perfect, and you don’t want to have any ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ in your greeting. When you’re ready, find a quiet place and, if possible, use a landline to make the recording. That will help avoid any background noise or cellular interference from distorting your message.

Say it with a smile
First impressions count, so it’s important to project a friendly, welcoming attitude in your voicemail greeting. Even though callers may not actually be able to see you smiling through the telephone, they’ll be able to hear it in your voice. Think of your greeting as a mini introduction, the kind you might deliver at a trade show. The ideal voicemail greeting should feel like the phone equivalent of a firm handshake and a warm smile. Putting yourself in the right frame of mind when you make the recording will make a big difference.

Keep it short
While it may be tempting to explain your company, products or services, resist the urge to blabber. A better place for that kind of message is whatever you play for callers who’ve been placed on hold. As a rule, your voicemail greeting shouldn’t last any longer than 15 seconds. Any more than that and you’re liable to turn callers off, causing them to hang up before the beep. Remember, however, that clarity is important, meaning you don’t want to speak too fast. If you have to rush to finish your greeting in 15 seconds, it’s probably still too long, so shave off a few words and try to find time to take a breath.

Keep it current
If your greeting sounds out of date (or, even worse, actually is out of date), you’ve got a problem. No one wants to leave a message they don’t believe will ever be heard or returned. If you’re too busy or simply don’t want to update your greeting every day, an easy solution is to record a new message at the start of each week and state the date somewhere near the beginning. Try something along the lines of: “Hi, this is Joe Smith of My Business Name. Sorry I missed your call. It’s the week of January 26th and I’m in the office all week…” That way, callers will know you’re around and will respond.

Make a call-back promise
One of the most encouraging things you can tell someone who’s about to leave you a voicemail is that they’ll hear back from you soon. So consider making a pledge to respond to every message within a certain time frame, before end of day if possible or within 24 hours. When you do call back, make sure you’ve listened properly and fully to the caller’s message so that you’re ready to address the reason for their call.

Steer callers to your website
If you can’t take a call because your business is closed for the day, or because you’re going to be out of the office for a while, let callers know where they can get information (and possible alternate contact details) by steering them to your website, social media accounts or, if you prefer, your e-mail address. Maybe they just want to know your hours, your location, or the price you charge for you a particular product or service. Keep callers happy by anticipating their needs and providing an opportunity for easy answers.

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