How to Transform Your Voicemail into an Effective Medium of Communication

"Hi this is Randy. Leave me a message after the beep and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks and have a great day."

Garbage.

This is an example of a typical outgoing message that makes callers feel like they really are talking to a machine. Now, we've all heard this cookie cutter message about a zillion times, but honestly ? it hurts me more with every call.

This doesn't make a voicemail message bad. It simply means that the voicemail is not totally leveraged. So, for the sake of your callers and my ears, I want to share six techniques that will transform boring, robotic voicemail into an engaging, fun and personable medium of communication.

Noise
Have you ever left a message on someone's voicemail who obviously recorded their greeting in a car?

"Hi you've reached the voicemail of Sandra?HONK! I'm away from my?LOOK OUT LADY! ?right now, but I'll call you back when I ?SCREEECH! ? my office. Thanks."

Garbage.

Messages like these will make your callers feel unimportant. Messages like these will show your callers that you don't care enough about them to spend 10 minutes recording a clear message. Therefore, the first rule of transforming your voicemail is: get rid of the noise.

When you go into your office or home - shut the doors, turn the music and TV off, and record your message in absolute silence. Remember, your voicemail is a medium of communication ? and any noise that comes between two individuals is considered a barrier. Even over the phone.

Differentiation
Now that you've locked yourself in the closet with your phone, it's time to figure out what you're going to say. What's more, how you're going to say it. So think of your business cards, website, letterhead and promotional materials: what makes you stand out? Is it the slogan? The phrases? The company name?

Unfortunately when it comes to voicemail, people just seem to go through the motions. They throw some generic message together and it stands out like a needle in a stack of needles. But keep this in mind: everyone has a voicemail. Everyone. So what are you going to record that will allow your callers differentiate you from all those other "I'm away from my desk" people out there?

Great example: I used to sell furniture at a family-owned liquidation warehouse. Every week, the owner would rerecord a new voicemail with one or two items that were an amazing deal. She did this so her customers - even without walking into the store - knew their prices were the lowest.

Fun
I've always wondered why voicemail messages can't be fun. In search of an answer I recently consulted my Sprint PCS handbook. I found the following passage under the section "How to Record Your Outgoing Message":

"When recording outgoing voicemail message, remember to sound as unfriendly, boring and bland as possible. This will guarantee maximum robotic presence in the minds of your callers."

Not bloody likely.

I have a friend whose greeting says, "Hey this is Jeffery. Leave me your 16 digit American Express Card number and I'll get back to you soon. Thanks!" Believe it or not ? at least three people a day actually leave their credit card numbers for him! In fact, the first time I called him I gave him my card number too! Guess that explains the $2,000 bill on my statement.

The advantage to a message like this: it shows your true colors. And people love that. So, unless you actually are a robot ? in which case I'd love to meet you - don't sound like one. Sound like you. People like and want you.

Engagement
If you call either of my phone lines, this is what you'll hear:

"Hello, my name is Scott ? and you have reached Front Porch Productions. Sorry I missed you; but leave me a message and IF you tell me your favorite cereal, I promise to call you back! Thanks, and we'll talk soon."

Now, I'm not exactly sure what prompted me to record voicemail message about cereal. But to my surprise, my callers' responses underwent a complete transformation in regard to their level of engagement.

Some people told me about their favorite cereals, others discussed breakfast as a whole. Some callers said they didn't care for cereal, while others reminisced about childhood memories of delicious breakfast treats that were longer on the market.

It's amazing how people open up when they are asked a question that is a) open ended, b) fun and c) universally easy to answer. What's more, once personal preferences are revealed via self disclosure ? trust, rapport and common points of interest will develop in the relationship. Not to mention, it's easy to leverage their message as a great ice breaker when you return their call!

Smile
Now that you're ready to rerecord your voicemail, there's only one thing left to do: smile. I know, it sounds so simple. So clich?. So Dale Carnegie. But say the following sentence aloud: "I'll get back with you in 24 hours."

Ok, now?say the following sentence WITH A SMILE: "I'll get back with you in 24 hours!"

Did that make you feel silly? Maybe.

But did that sound totally different? Probably.

And will that make your callers actually feel your smile through the phone? You better believe it.

There are two reasons to record your outgoing message with a smile. First, it will sound like you actually took the time to record your message instead of quickly spurting out a few words on the drive home from work. What's more, people will sense that you do care about their call.

Secondly, you never know who's going to call for the first time. Imagine getting a phone call from a new referral that has potential to stimulate a lot of business. She leaves a message and awaits your follow up. Now, odds are if you met them for the first time in person, you'd be smiling so much your ears would get crowded. Likewise, if your voicemail is the first time they hear your voice, speaking your smile is a great way to make a first impression. Even if you're not there!

Your voicemail is a tool that has fantastic conversational potential. Just because you have a voicemail doesn't mean you can't make people feel like they're talking to you. By recording a friendly, engaging and memorable message, you will literally be able to hear the smile in your callers' voices.

Continuity
You might be the greatest conversationalist in the world, the most talented salesman or the friendliest volunteer in your organization. But if your voicemail sounds like its own unfriendly, unrelated entity, it's like missing a piece to an important puzzle.

Here's another way to look at it. Let's say your organization has a marketing plan that includes billboards, brochures, newspaper ads and flyers. Now, what happens if the brochure uses different colors and slogans than the other three outlets? Bingo. It diminishes the consistency between mediums.

EXTENSION?of your personality. Use words, phrases and vocal tones that make your phone come alive with individuality.

REPRESENTATION?of your organization. Briefly mention your slogan, service or a new way you can help people.

Results
When you rerecord a voicemail that is different, fun, engaging, friendly and consistent with you or your business's personality, here's what will happen:

YOUR CALLERS WILL?

  • Be hand up feeling glad they called you

  • Smile, even laugh as they leave a message

  • Separate your voicemail from the other 1000 they call every week

  • Tell their friends about your voicemail

  • Feel a connection because their first interaction ? even if it was with your voicemail ? made them feel comfortable and engaged.

    Make your voicemail an effective medium of communication today!

    © 2005 All Rights Reserved.

    Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com.

  • 5 Ways Customer Service Managers are Implementing to Increase Customer Focus

    According to a Forum Corporation survey of commercial customers lost by 14 major service and... Read More

    Dealing with People - Words to Avoid

    You probably realise how the wrong tone of voice and negative body language can cause... Read More

    How To Boost Your Bottom Line With Two Little Words

    I hate to sound like one of those cheesy get-rich-quick commercials, but this week I... Read More

    CEM Can Improve Customer Loyalty

    'A 5 percent increase in customer retention increases profits by 25 to 95 percent.''The greater... Read More

    Complaining Consumers

    The salesman's job is to be well informed; extremely well informed. For this information is... Read More

    11 Ways to Get What You Want - Be a Clever Customer!

    We all want great service, whether we are buying our weekly groceries from a store,... Read More

    Clients?Do You Really Need Them?

    Running a successful business takes a lot of energy and there are so many areas... Read More

    What Every Manager Should Know About How to Win the Loyalty of Customers

    Dr. Michael LeBoeuf, in his cassette album entitled, Win Customers and Keep Them for Life... Read More

    Treating the Customer Dissatisfaction Epidemic: How to Go Beyond Simply Masking the Symptoms

    Corporations in every sector are spending more than ever before in an attempt to improve... Read More

    Say It With Humor

    When you own a business, you may find yourself in situations that may be a... Read More

    What Every Employee Should Know About How to Prevent Customer Service Conflicts

    There are five techniques that have been proven to be effective in resolving, minimizing, and... Read More

    Loyalty Programs May Keep Customers Coming Back ? But First You?ve Got to Earn their Trust

    Remember trading stamps? If you're over 40, chances are you will. Every time you shopped... Read More

    How To Build a Profitable Business

    It's never too soon to start saying thanks to your clients, vendors and referral sources... Read More

    You MUST Sweat the Small Stuff

    It's The Little Things That Make or Break a Small BusinessIf you make a poor... Read More

    Renewing Customer Loyalty

    Every business loses customers, but not many do much about getting them back. And that... Read More

    Customer Service: Why Bears Make Bad Customers

    Every business owner should have a picture of his or her ideal customer. When I... Read More

    Dissatisfied or Rude Customers Can Be Satisfied Customers

    On a recent airline flight I was an upset customer. I was arriving on... Read More

    What Every Employee Should Know About Putting Positive Phrases Into Customer Service

    If you were a customer on the telephone with a question or complaint and were... Read More

    Customer Service, the Internets Primary Neglected Business Concern

    Customer service is everything to a business. Just look at big, successful retail chains: They... Read More

    Quality vs. Quantity

    There is a battle in Call Centers. The teams are Quality vs. Quantity; two performance... Read More

    Whats The Customer Service Buzz About Your Business?

    If you're a regular reader of my column you know that my number one pet... Read More

    5 Golden Online/Offline Business Rules To LIVE Or DIE By

    Whether online or off, if you plan on running or maintaining any type of credibility... Read More

    Restaurant Scheduling for Success

    - Excerpt from Richard Saporito's latest e-book "How to Improve Dining Room Service"This Tip will... Read More

    The Nine Principles of Customer Service for the Travel Industry©

    If you want to learn how to get your clients to do your selling for... Read More

    Profit from a Customer Service Recovery Program

    A client recently said to me: "Most days things seem to run smoothly; but whenever... Read More

    Oil Change Customer from Hell or Hoax; You Decide

    Evacuation, "E-Vac" Oil System for Oil ChangingHow do most mobile oil change companies remove the... Read More

    Five Tips to Calm Cranky Customers

    1. Tis the SeasonRecognize that everyone is frazzled during the holidays- you and your customers.... Read More

    Customer Service, Italian Style

    Nowadays, we complain nearly all of the time about how few businesses remember how to... Read More

    How Not to Get Stiffed, Improving Your Collection Procedures

    Some businesses have slow paying customers or past due balances because they didn't "train" their... Read More

    The Great American Customer Service Unawareness Campaign

    Q: I'm so sick of you so-called business experts always saying the customer is always... Read More

    Debt Elimination Scam

    May people these days have a problem with mounting debt. The average person is well... Read More

    Whats For Lunch?

    As an entrepreneur, I'm always intrigued by small businesses, home-based or not, that exceed the... Read More

    Sales Marketing: 10 High Impact Ways To Improve Your Customer Service

    If you want to last a long time in business and succeed, you must learn... Read More

    How To Handle Customer Billing Snafus

    Q: I just discovered that for the past six months I have been billing a... Read More

    Top Ten Strategies for Delivering 5-Star Customer Service

    Customer satisfaction is valuable, but customer loyalty is priceless. In today's competitive world of business,... Read More

    What Every Manager Should Know About Seeing the World from Where the Customer Is Standing

    It is important to remember that the customer doesn't necessarily see things in the same... Read More

    Ten Ways to Help You Improve Your Customer Service

    1. Stay in contact with customers on a regular basis. Justas it is bad news... Read More

    Poor Customer Service - Are Your Customers Driving Away Other Customers

    Every customer you have is a word-of-mouth advertiser for you. Unfortunately 90% of this free... Read More

    How to Walk the Floor and Talk to Customers

    This may seem a strange topic to introduce. Yet, it is the most under-used skill... Read More

    The 3 Rs of Customer Service

    What I am about to tell you may seem very obvious - you may even... Read More

    Customer Service and The Human Experience

    Historically, customer service was delivered over the phone or in person. Customers didn't have many... Read More

    You Bever Know Who Youre Serving

    You Never Know Who You're Serving when customers turn irate.I think of myself as a... Read More

    Create Win-Win Deals With Your Competitors

    In the competitive world of the 20th century, we generally viewed competitors as the enemy.... Read More

    A White Paper: Profiting with Kindness

    In 2002, there wasn't much interest for Kindness in business, and some business people would... Read More

    Dont Work with Jerks: How to Recognize a Difficult Client Early

    Five minutes into the call I knew this client was going to make my life... Read More

    Difficult Customers - Theres No Such Thing

    A couple of years ago I had a call from a Customer Service Manager working... Read More

    6 Reasons Why Complaining Customers are Golden

    With Some Tips on How to RespondTt has probably happened to you if you own... Read More

    Making the Connection: Customer Relationships That Build Your Business

    Have you ever wondered why you often find a coupon tucked inside your cereal box,... Read More

    7 Bits Of Critical Information You Cant Afford NOT To Know About Your Customers

    If you think customer relationship management is just a piece of software, you're dead wrong.... Read More

    Responding to Complaints

    It's possible that in the course of your business dealings, you may (just may) have... Read More