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2 Tips for Even Better Voicemail

Recently, we offered 7 tips for even better phone calls.

This topic sparked a really great conversation, both internally and with many of our readers, about phone etiquette. It also got us thinking about what happens when we don’t make an actual connection. What happens when one of us doesn’t pick up the call?

Just as we sometimes need a refresher about appropriate phone etiquette, we thought the same might be true for voicemail. So, here we offer two tips for handling voicemails.

Tip #1: Let your voicemail answer well

numero-marcacion-hombre-telefonoPerhaps you're one of those voicemail jokesters who prefers a greeting phrase like “Here comes the beep. You know what to do.” because so many of us do know what to do. But, as fun as it is, it’s not always the most appropriate or most useful greeting. The advice we gave in tip #1 here still applies here. Answering the phone well, even if it’s the machine (or in today’s world, the computer) that answers for us, by identifying who you are and what the caller can expect from you will set us up for even better success.

Here’s a simple voicemail greeting equation we like to stick to:

Greeting + identification + expectation setting = success.

Here’s what that might look like in practice:

Hi there! You’ve reached Sinikka Waugh with Your Clear Next Step. I can’t answer my phone right now. If you need to reach me or my team quickly, please visit or send an email to Or, if you’d prefer a call back, please leave your name, number, and the reason for your call and I will return it as soon as I can. Thank you and have a great day!


Bonus tip:

If you know that your phone availability is predictable and dependent on your daily schedule, consider updating your voicemail greeting on a regular basis, to let a caller know exactly when they might be able to reach you. That might look something like this:

“Hi there! You have reached Sinikka Waugh with Your Clear Next Step. Today is Friday, October 11th. I’ll be away from my desk from 10-12 and 2-2:30. Please leave your name, number, and the reason for your call and I will return it as soon as I can.”


Tip #2: Leave a good message.

hands-women-wearing-white-shirts-are-using-social-media-phoneThe flip side of a having a good voicemail greeting is leaving a voice message. As a plea on behalf of those of us whose voicemail inbox is very full, and whose time to return those voicemail messages is very limited, please leave a good message. It is great, standard practice to leave a clear, succinct message that includes your name, the context in which the lucky voicemail recipient might know you (like your company or the event or circumstances where you met recently), an indication of why you called, and how and when to best reach you. There are decidedly few things more draining than playing phone tag when we can't figure out how to connect, especially if we don't even know what we're going to talk about.

Here’s a simple voicemail message equation we like to stick to:

Greeting + identification & context + the reason for your call +

how to get in touch with you + best times to reach you = success.

Here’s what that might look like in practice:

“This is Sinikka with Your Clear Next Step. I was calling to get your answer on whether or not you'll be available to join us next Wednesday at our planned meeting. Feel free to give me a call back at 515-442-0545 or RSVP to the email invite sent out last week. Hope to hear from you soon!”

“Hello! This is Sinikka Waugh. We met at the networking event last week. I'm calling because I would really love your input on something, and it'll probably take us about 15 minutes to chat through. I've got windows of time Tuesday afternoon Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. If there's a chance that you can call me back, the best way to reach me is 515-442-0545. Thank you!”

This little step of courtesy when leaving a voice message will eliminate some unnecessary pain. Frankly, it will eliminate the irritation that the other person might feel when they don't know why you called or how to reach you. It will eliminate the frustration of phone tag without a clear understanding of when we can possibly connect. It will allow me to leave you a voice message or send you an email in return if we can't connect. And with all those benefits, hopefully, this little step will lead to even better conversations.

What other tips do you have? Join in the conversation on social media!

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About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day.

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