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.

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