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Voicemail Etiquette 101

Updated on May 19, 2013
Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannie has been writing online for over 10 years. She covers a wide variety of topics - hobbies, opinions, dating advice, and more!

Say What?

I work in customer service at an office. Everyday I struggle through voicemail messages in an attempt to return everyone's call in a timely manner. I have to tell you what I've learned. A lot of people simply do not know how to leave a voicemail message.

Let me let you in on a secret: if I can't hear your message, I can't call you back! You would think something so basic would need no explanation. However, that is just not the case. Please... I am begging you... please read this and keep these tips in mind the next time you leave a message.

I present to you a number of examples of messages gone wrong:

The Speedy Number Message

I will never understand this particular type of message. The caller usually begins the message with their name and then a great deal of rambling. Often, I am told so much information I am thinking I may doze off before the message is over. Finally, just as the message is coming to a close, that is when the caller decides to speed things up and blurts out their phone number faster than I can even blink.

I understand it is your phone number and, therefore, you are quite familiar with it. The problem is, I am not. That was the most important part of that message. Now I can't call you back. I understand everything else you told me (probably a little too much info), but I can't call you back. So please remember, take a moment, slowly state your phone number, pause, and perhaps even repeat the number.

The Mumbler

Come on, you know who you are! Take a few moments before calling and do what you need to do. Maybe you need to clear your throat. Maybe you are chewing a wad of bubble gum that you need to spit out. Maybe you need to put down the cigarette. I am really not sure. I just know I can't understand a single word in your message. Hitting the rewind button twenty times on the phone is not really the way I want to spend my morning, so please, have mercy!

The Chewer

Along the same lines as The Mumbler, there is an equally annoying caller: The Chewer. The Chewer likes to call while on his or her lunch break and multitask. I understand everyone is very busy in today's world, but that does not mean you should chew your food while leaving a message.

If you call during your lunch break, chances are, everyone else is on their lunch break, too. You are probably going to have to leave a message. Take a brief moment from the excitement that is your turkey and cheese sandwich, and leave a clear message. It is completely rude to chew over the phone. I don't care if you are chewing in my ear when I pick up the phone or if you are burping and chewing your way through a voicemail message - it is disgusting. Stop doing it!

The Disturbing Sound Effects Call

For the life of me, I can't even begin to imagine what is going on in the background of some of these messages. Are they slaughtering pigs in the background? Is someone calling from a daycare center where every single child decided to simultaneously start crying? What is going on? Sometimes I fear for the safety of some of these callers.

So please, go to a location where I can hear you. If you are driving, pull over. If you have a screaming child, calm them down first.  Seriously, sometimes I don't know if I should call you back or dial 911 first.

The Confused Caller

When you call a business, please double check to make sure you are calling the right business. You might want to note what name the voicemail greeting states before you leave the message. That would be a pretty clear indication as to whether you've dialed the number correctly.

Just today I listened to a voicemail message from someone who clearly left a message with the wrong company. He left the message for someone that does not work at our office and for a service we do not provide. The best part was that he said to contact him using the number we have on file. Sorry, pal. Try again.

The Swift Recall

When you leave a message, please give me the opportunity to listen to it and call you back. Keep in mind, there was a reason why I did not pick up the phone the first time. I was most likely busy, and chances are, if you call back two minutes later, I am still busy. If you call back two minutes after that, you are super annoying. I am going to be quite a bit less than chatty and not so very happy to help you by the time I can call you back. You may want to remember that.

On a side note, if I call you back and leave you a message, check your voicemail before you call me back. Chances are, I gave you the answer and you don't even need to call back. Also, it doesn't look so great if my boss happens to pick up the phone and you claim I never called you back when, in fact, you simply did not check your messages. That is not going to earn you any brownie points with me either.

The Unreasonable After Hours Caller

One of the most frustrating messages to receive is the person who calls after business hours, but is terribly angry when no one answers the phone. I am sorry we were open all day long, yet your problem wasn't major enough to call before 5 o'clock. I work at an office, not a 24 hour Super Walmart.

If you are angry and an office is not open, do not leave a grumpy voicemail message. Take a deep breath, calm down, and leave a rational message. Better yet, take some time to determine if perhaps you can figure out the problem on your own. Give it a try to call us back during business hours the next day if it doesn't work out for you.

The Exceptionally Needy Customer

One voicemail message that always confuses me is the message with an obvious answer. Someone will call and leave a message saying something like, "I am trying to figure out your fax number so I can fax an urgent message to you. Please call back." I won't get the voicemail message for perhaps an hour or so, and then I get the chance to call back. By that time, anyone working at an office could easily do an online search and find out the fax number. Has the caller done that? No, of course not. Instead, the caller has eagerly sat by the phone waiting for someone to call back as opposed to taking some initiative and finding that information.

Guess the message wasn't so urgent after all if you couldn't bother to find the obvious answer on your own. Next time, if your message is as an important as you indicate, take a few moments to solve your own problem. Chances are, in the time it took you to leave the voicemail message, you could have figured it out on your own. Imagine how proud you will be next time when you find out you can be a self-sufficient adult!

A Parting Message (Get It? Message? Nevermind.)

I hope I've been able to help out at least a few readers. I know, we all make mistakes. I am sure I've left some pretty terrible voicemails myself. Just be aware, my friends, and try your best. That is all I ask. It makes my job just a little easier.


Copyright ©2011 Jeannieinabottle



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