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Dr-Fix-It! Notebook Archive:
Efficient and Truthful Voice Mail Introductions

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Greetings . . .

          Recently, I received an unusual compliment.

         Cliff, a sales clerk at a local parts store, called me to let me know that a part I had special-ordered had arrived. Of course, I wasn't at my desk when he phoned and the voice mail picked up the call. Cliff started his message with the compliment, "I like your voice mail, Doc. It is short and sweet. To the point".

          I don't particularly like voice mail but it seems to be a necessary evil of business today. I would be embarrassed to have some cute little greeting message or one that sounds phony or stupid. So, I worked very hard to distill my greeting message down to something concise to tell the caller to everything they need to know. My voice mail greeting is simply, "Doc's voice mail" then the machine takes over with a woman's voice that says, "leave a message after the tone".   BEEP and you are talking.   Four-point-three seconds from the moment of pickup, you are recording a message.

          When I have to call Phyllis, I dread that she might not be available because I have to suffer through her voice mail : "Hi, This is Phyllis. Normal office hours are Monday through Friday from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon and eight to noon on Saturday. If you are calling after normal office hours, you can call again during normal office hours or stay on the line to leave a message." If I am still awake; if I haven't lapsed into a boredom-induced coma, I extract a little revenge by leaving Phyllis a long-winded detailed message with lots of measurements and part numbers. I purposefully misquote the numbers then correct myself. Through it all, I try to speak in a droning monotone. That way she will have to replay my message several times to jot down all the numbers, corrections and measurements. I hope Phyllis dreads my messages as much as I dread her voice mail greeting.

          Mark has an informative greeting: "Hi, this is Mark. I am sorry I couldn't take your call. I am either away from my desk, on the other line or helping other customers." Thanks for the info, Mark. As a matter of fact, just the other day it popped into my head, "I wonder where Mark is?" So, I called him. "I am either away from my desk, on the other line or helping other customers."    There you have it.

          We can probably get rid of all of the voice mails greetings that finish with: "please leave a detailed message after the sound of the beep" because right after that, the system says, "leave a message after the tone". Maybe fifty years ago, when telephone tape recorders first became available, a greeting that included some instructions for their proper use was probably appropriate. But talking to a machine is not a new experience for us anymore.   Nowadays, we don't need to be reminded to leave a message.

          My friend Bill became so annoyed with nuisance messages from telemarkers that he programmed his voice mail to start out with fifteen seconds of silence. A caller hears the phone ring and the pickup then just dead air for what seems to be a very long time. Finally, the voice mail kicks in with the familiar "leave a message after the tone". But, only those who know to wait are still on the line by then.

          Another friend, Rick, took Bill's idea one step further. Rick uses a dial tone as his voice mail greeting. A caller hears the phone ring followed by a click and a dial tone. It sounds just like Rick has hung up the phone. Of course, after a few seconds, the voice mail prompts with "leave a message after the tone". But by then, most nuisance callers are long gone.

          My own voice mail greeting first started out to be: " Hi, this is Doc. I am sorry I missed your call. Leave a message and I will call you right back."   From the start, I was dissatisfied with it.  It was just a pack of lies . . .

          "I am sorry I missed your call" is not true. To be frank, I really am not sorry to miss a call. Sometimes, on purpose, I won't pick up the phone even though I am sitting right there. I don't want the interruption. So, I deleted "I am sorry I missed your call"

          "Leave a message and I will call you right back." is not true. Oh, I will eventually call you back if and when it suits me. But "call you right back" ?   No.   I don't want to hold myself to that standard. And, as I said before, "Leave a message" is outdated and redundant. So, I deleted "Leave a message and I will call you right back."

          I decided I could do without "Hi".  I think pleasantries should be reserved for humans. Isn't a recorded voice mail "Hi" a greeting without any substance? Is it always appropriate? If the Grim Reaper phoned, would a human say "Hi" ? Probably not. So, I deleted "Hi".

          "This is Doc" is not true. It isn't Doc at all. It is a recording of Doc's voice. So, I deleted "This is Doc".

          That is how I arrived at my current voice mail greeting: "Doc's voice mail". Short and sweet. I think it provides all the information the caller needs - and probably wants - to know.   There are no false promises. No phony pleasantries.   And, every word is true.   All three of them.



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