Everything You Ever Wanted (and Needed) to Know About Professional Voicemail Greetings

phone call

This post originally appeared at GetVoIP.com.

A voicemail recording is more important than you think it is. While many users pine away at intuitive user menus and expansive feature sets, many forget the importance of their recorded voicemail message. While this may not sound like a travesty, it could very well could be.

Really think about it. You’re out of the office, it’s after business hours, or you’re otherwise indisposed, whatever the case may be, your voicemail is now tasked with representing you (and/or your company). No pressure, right? Your voicemail message is a platform that represents you to callers; therefore it’s absolutely crucial that your message is perfect. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Here’s our ultimate guide, including video and audio samples, on everything you need to know about professional voicemail greetings.

 

1. Mistakes to Avoid With Your Company’s Voicemail Greeting

Users often don’t invest enough time into their messages, resulting in incomplete, unprofessional or otherwise under-whelming greetings. Sure, crafting a greeting doesn’t sound all that complicated; however, there are a number of pitfalls users can fall into — i.e. informality, terseness, sincerity, lack of direction and more.

While none of these sound too catastrophic, they are often interrelated. As such, they tend to worsen any problem. For example, humor can cause informality, worsen ambiguity and weaken sincerity. That being said, users should strive to avoid all these pitfalls.

The simple truth is that you need to be more aware of what you’re leaving for other people to hear. Sure, this doesn’t always register as a priority for users, but it’s never too late to reassess your greeting.

 

Reading/Speaking in the Imperfect Tone

Tone is absolutely everything. Users don’t want to come off as being too nice, as it sounds insincere, or being too terse, as it can be interpreted as being rude. That being said, striking the right balance is absolutely essential. Your greeting exists as its own entity, and therefore, it should not rely on callers’ familiarity with you. Instead, it needs to appeal to the masses.

As such, your inflection, i.e. the way you state your name and directions, needs to be both welcoming and firm.
Aside from the inflection, one should also consider the tonality, or timbre, of their voice. One should strive to utilize their voice as a tool to ensnare caller as vocal deficiencies/inadequacies can discourage some users. That being said, there are some key tonal factors users should concentrate on in creating their tone. These include:

  • pitch – the lowness or highness of your voice;
  • projection/resonance – how well does your voice carry
  • speed – how fast/slow are you speaking
  • diction – how articulate are you/how clearly are you speaking
  • confidence – is there nervousness (tremors or breaks) in your voice, or do you sound reassured, stern, and confident?

All of these factors play into your overall tonality; therefore, once you know what you’ll be saying, you should devote some time and thought into how you’re going to say it.

Injecting Humor and Insincerity

While humor/lightheartedness can be welcoming, it can also convey a sense of informality, insincerity and ultimately unprofessionalism. Why? Because you’re not there to lend your humor or to contextualize. Instead, you’re assuming the caller has a working knowledge of your personality to ground the message.

Though this might not sound like it’s all that terrible, it can be detrimental. As stated above, one should never rely on a caller’s familiarity with you. Instead, aim to appeal to the masses. Humor is ultimately subjective, meaning not everyone has the same tastes; therefore, someone is bound to be turned off by a quirky or off-color remark. While implementing a lighthearted or even tongue-in-cheek tone can work, it’s just a really bad idea.

Personality is hard to capture, especially in a short greeting message; therefore, callers might misinterpret any type of gag/joke you leave behind, especially when you’re not there to lend contextualization. For example, one may leave a voicemail greeting that starts “Hello? Hello? Just leave a message.” While this may be funny to you, callers may not be able to decipher the humor, or they could be offended by said humor. Either way is pretty messy.

If the caller doesn’t get your humor, he or she may really think you answered and hung up, which can portray you as discourteous (to say the least). Even if the caller does get your humor, he or she may not find it funny. Brian Allain, Humor Writer and Blog Coach, states, “It was funny the first time…” People have different humors; therefore, your message is never going to appeal to the masses. Instead, it’s more likely to isolate you.

Humor also leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation, which subsequently weakens sincerity and authority. A caller can be very turned off by merely misinterpreting your joke. Why take this risk? Additionally, this could even cause callers to question your character. Say, for example, the president of a company’s mobile phone voicemail greeting was funny. What’s to happen if the caller didn’t like or get the joke? What if they found it offensive? Another scenario is that a caller is reaching out to you for the first time — i.e. they have no idea regarding your personality. What next? The point is, with this type of greeting, humor is bound to be more divisive, so just avoid it altogether.

Poorly Pacing Your Message/Bad Time Management

Don’t speed through your message. Speak clearly so callers know what to include in their message and when to leave the message. At the same time, don’t drag your message out. No one wants to sit through a diatribe. Just get to the point clearly.

Utilizing Ambiguity Over Clarity

When setting up your voicemail greeting be direct and to the point. Tell callers your information, a brief greeting, and direction — i.e. “Hi, this is Jim Shamalam (from Iron Industries). Sorry I can’t take your call right now. Please leave your name number, and a brief message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.”  This is ideal, as you inform callers and let them know what they should do to ensure a return call.

A lack of direction can lead to callers leaving incomplete messages (lacking contact or other information) or even callers hanging up without leaving a message altogether.For example, a message like, “Hi, this is Jim. You know what to do.” Well, not everyone is going to know what to do — i.e. they won’t leave you inclusive information. Additionally, they may not leave you a message at all.

Aside from this, humor can again be detrimental to your message, this time lending itself to ambiguity and costing you clarity. For example, if a message read, “Hi this is Jim, sorry I can’t answer your call right now. Please leave your name and number and I’ll call you as soon as I can, but you already knew that, right? Do I need to tell you what to do?” This is worse than the previous example as this is confusing and can also come across as rude and unprofessional. Complicating a greeting with phrasing like this is sure to cause some harm.

Ignoring Personality and Identity

Don’t use computer-generated greetings. Some users leave default messages (“you’ve reached the voicemail box of 777-777-777. Please leave a message”). Believe it or not, even this can cause problems. Callers may be unsure if the voicemail box belongs to you; therefore, they don’t leave a message. Also, some may even be uncomfortable leaving information through a message in a nameless voice message box

As such, being impersonal can cause ambiguity, which again can hurt the effectiveness of your voice message system. This doesn’t mean you have to make an elaborate greeting if you don’t want to, just insert your voice and name so at least callers know they’re calling the right person.

2. What NOT to Say On Your Voicemail Greeting

The above section details types of phrasing to avoid; however, it doesn’t detail what users should not say on their greeting. Though this is a bit loaded, as there are hundreds of combinations of things one shouldn’t say, there are some key components users should always avoid.

Forget about slang. You should strive to be as professional and welcoming as possible in your greeting. While this may steer you toward using slang in an attempt to make callers comfortable, it’ll most likely work against you. As a professional, your demeanor, tone and speech should be clear-cut and well articulated. Using slang undercuts this and works against you.

Don’t even think about profanity. This is a no-brainer. Never, under any circumstances, curse in your greeting ever!

Keep your sentences clean; don’t ramble. Introduce yourself and give your caller specific direction. Avoid long diatribes detailing tangent thoughts. Keep it simple and quick.

Always return your calls. It’s important for callers to feel they are valued. Nothing dissolves this quicker than a greeting that doesn’t stress this. For example, “I’ll call you when I can,” “If I don’t return your call, please call back” — these phrases are terrible and completely destroy any good will you may have with a caller.

Never assume anything. Phrases like “you know what to do,” “sing your song at the beep,” and others mentioned above are awful to leave in your greeting. For the sake of universality and comprehensiveness, never assume the caller knows what to do. Lay it out clearly.

Never ask callers to “leave a message.” This phrase, by itself, will not do. It’s imperative for users to identify themselves in their greetings. Callers need to know they’ve reached the right person.

Disregard lethargy. If you’re not excited about your greeting, why would anyone else be? Never display a lack of enthusiasm in your greeting, as it could turn callers off to both you and your business.

Speak clearly and never slur. Callers need to understand your every word; therefore, mumbling, slurring and all other detractions of speech should never be recorded.

 

3. Tips for Professional Voicemail Greetings

 

Know What You Want to Say

Users should decide the type of tone they’re going for before ever concentrating on the actual message. As such, one must decide whether their greeting will be strictly professional, humorous, lighthearted, cut and dry, etc. While there are many potential dangers attached to each tonality, it’s ultimately up to the user to decide which tone works best for them. Though this can be a tricky process, it could help steer users towards a more fitting tone.

For example, Film and Television actor Paul Cram states, “Evaluating what I am literally saying in my voice mail content has drastically changed what I say. Opting either for a colorful version, or for brevity, depending on my mood that day/week.” In addition to this, deciding what you want to say, and how you want to say it, can help move along another good habit — scripting and practice.

 

Write a Script and Practice

As with anything else, practice makes perfect. Now that you’re more aware of how important this greeting is, you may be more willing to give a little more attention to it. If you’re serious about it, write a script and practice. Seriously — actors, musicians, writers, artists, they all practice their form to make it perfect. While this may seem tedious, it definitely has its advantages.

For example, in writing your exact message, you can perfect the message — i.e. make it clear and concise. Additionally, you no longer have to speak on the spot. The creative process is complete, and with your greeting fully realized, you’re free to inject personality into them. Now, you don’t have to think of what you’re saying, but of how you’re saying it.

Scripting and practice can not only help users find the right words, but the right way to say them. This process connect to users knowing what they want to say. Scripting and practice can help users refine, reshape, and retool their voicemail, creating a much more complete and rounded message. With a more rigid creative and performance process, your greeting is bound to be much more finely tuned.

 

Make a Positive First Impression/Convey Happiness and Enthusiasm

Yes, this does sound ridiculous in theory; however, the act itself may be much more practical. According to a UK study conducted by the University of Portsmouth back in 2008, people, in this case callers, are actually able to detect whether or not you are happy by the inflection in your voice. That’s right, take it in.

When recording your voicemail greeting, it’s important to convey a sense of confidence and enthusiasm. Callers can tell the difference, and the last thing they want to hear is a grumpy, un-enthused message. For some callers, the voicemail greeting can be their first interaction with you; therefore, users should want to convey a sense of professional pride. Its not particularly charming to contact someone who is unhappy, so be sure to convey positivity.

 

Be Creative Without Sacrificing Quality

Callers know how voicemails work — i.e. leave a number, message, etc. While you want to be clear, it’s important not to be contrived or redundant with your message. Creativity can help users to differentiate themselves, as well as intrigue callers. While users should avoid the tropes of creativity listed above, it’s definitely good to think outside the box. That being said, scripting and practice can help users to experiment more with their greeting — ultimately allowing for more unique and creative approach.

Speak With Diction

It’s important to present your as an authority without alienating callers. As such, it’s crucial to articulate and speak with clear diction. “If your voice recording has you stumbling over words and speaking haltingly, it does not convey confidence and competence,” states Ron Sellers of Grey Matter Research & Consulting.

Remember, this greeting represents you; therefore, you want to appear collected and professional, as well as welcoming. To do this, you must carry yourself well through your recorded message.

 

Account for Timeliness

Your message should be concise. No caller wants to be sitting through a rant/diatribe of redundant statements. Your greeting should flow without dragging. Inversely, one doesn’t want to be terse, either. Engage callers with a simplified approach laden with creativity.

 

Stay On Target

The best thing users can do is convey a sense of concise uniformity — meaning your greeting focuses on the topic at hand while reflecting your personage (or company) accurately. Again, Ron Sellers talks about this, stating:

People don’t realize that every touch point should be an expression of the brand. If you have a contemporary brand, the hold music shouldn’t be Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night. If the brand is friendly, all phone recordings should be intentionally read with a smile. Even subtle things such as this impact how people perceive the brand and/or the employee.

Users should strive for their greetings to have an even flow that deploys information evenly, free of tangents. That being said, please allow me to be frank for a moment: Do not rant on your message. Seriously, no one will sit through it, and even if they do, the message itself could do some serious damage to your reputation/appearance. Give callers exactly what they need, no more, no less.

 

Account for Quality

Aside from speaking clearly, users want to eliminate any noise in the surrounding environment. The quality of the greeting is just as important as what’s being said in the greeting itself. As such, don’t undermine a great message with poor quality.

Courtesy, Tastefulness, and Tact

This is pretty self-explanatory and straightforward: never be rude. Being lighthearted and humorous is very different from being obnoxious and/or abrasive. Again, these tools can be helpful if used properly, but not everyone perceives humor the same way. So play it safe. The last thing your voicemail greeting should do is offend a caller.

 

Holiday Greetings

Holiday greetings are great, as they show callers you’re updated, in touch, and involved in the present. Standardization is good, but it sometimes lacks the human touch. Also, holiday greetings can express your consideration; however, in using this method, there are a number of routes you can go.

For example, SnapRecordings lists a few samples in which one may choose a more lax greeting; i.e. “Happy Holidays from [Company Name]! At this time, our office is closed for the holiday season. Please leave a message and your call will be returned when we return,” or even something more formal, “Thank you for calling [Company Name]; we are currently closed for the holiday. Please leave a message and your call will be returned when we return.” Another good use of a holiday greeting can be to relay variances in business hours, specials, etc.

 

Provide Options

If you’re part of a bigger company, it might be good to offer caller options. For example, allow a menu to defer callers to a colleague or co-worker in your absence. This can help show callers you care about their well being. Another option might be offering different modes of communication — i.e. email, fax, etc. In offering users diversity, contact may be much easier to maintain.

4. Tools Available for Professional Voicemail Recordings

While there are a number of resources to help coach users in making a proficient voicemail greeting, some users still feel they are not doing enough. As such, there are a number of tools currently available to help even further.

Professional Voice Recording

Now that you’re versed in the process of recording your greeting, you may feel a burdening sense of responsibility; you may find that weight to be too heavy to lift alone. Well, rest easy. There are a number of companies and services for recording quality professional greetings.

With a wide variety of choices available, users are able to choose every aspect of the process — i.e. the provider (a business or a voice professional individually), the service and the tools involved.

Typically, most of these services are uniform — they include the same tools and features (send a script, they record it in a tone you approve, they send it as a file, you supply any feedback, etc.); however, there are some services that go above and beyond. For example, VoiceOverPro, is a single voice professional who records 30 second voicemail messages based on users’ scripts. This is standard; however, users also have options like adding music, recording up to 60 seconds (or 150 words), rush, 2-day turnaround, and even same-day delivery. With VoiceOverPro, there is only one professional recorder; therefore, there are no tonal options.

If a user was looking for different voice options, they may be better to head to a larger company. For example, VoiceArchive offers a library of over 1300 professional voice talents (including child talent). Users can select commercial samples of each talent to get a feel for the talent’s style. While this can be a bit daunting, the provider even offers a search option to find specific talents — letting users experiment with much more flexibility. Additionally, users are able to select from over 90 languages including Dutch, French, German, Italian, English, Spanish and many more. Aside from this, users are guaranteed delivery of their message within 24 hours.

This type of service can be very beneficial because users are able to craft their own messages, while a professional reads them. Companies can spend more time on the scripting process, making sure the text conveys everything they want it to — even bring in expert teams to draft, revise, and/or finalize the script itself. Additionally, in working with a professional voice talent, you are ensuring your words have the utmost impact — i.e. the words are read perfectly with the right tone, resonance, pacing, etc.

For users who want to avoid the scripting process altogether, there are also services that provide pre-recorded messages. Again, your voicemail greeting shoulders a lot of responsibility. Some people aren’t comfortable with having to create a message to deal with it. With this option, users can choose from libraries of pre-recorded messages, which are standardized greetings, for their voicemail. There are a variety of applications, services and companies that provide this service. For example, VoiceNation, a voicemail, virtual PBX and answering services provider, offers users a variety of samples.

 

Online Communities

The Internet is a big place. It gives everyone a voice; therefore, it can be really hard to discern useful information from fluff. While this can be frustrating, the virtual environment also allows for extensive social interaction and communities. If hiring a professional or using a service isn’t a viable option, leverage yourself in an online community. Run ideas past people in the same position. Get feedback, tips, advice, etc. from countless people who are in the same boat (or were at one point).

For example, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all make it easy to find people, experts, colleagues, etc. who may be able to help you. Additionally, you may even be able to help others out. Aside from social media, blogs, how-to type sites and forums make it easy to get feedback and information, too. A good example of this can be seen with the University of Chicago. This university compiled an extensive list of voicemail greetings that merely requires you to fill in the blanks. You can see a variety of applicable greeting choices, which can help you better draft your own greeting.

In Summary

If you don’t know it by now, you might never know. Voicemail greetings are incredibly important to users. The greeting conveys identity, character, and image to callers.

In an increasingly digital world, where business is conducted online and over the phone, phone presence is increasingly important, your greeting is a crucial part of the platform. While there are a number of obstacles to be aware of, utilized properly, voicemail greetings can be incredibly helpful and beneficial; therefore, it’s in your best interest to invest yourself in creating a quality recording.

What’s the trickiest aspect of voicemail greetings for you? Let us know in the comments!

Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleash your professional potential.

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