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The "Ins" & "Outs" of Telephone Messages


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Today's business world is all about communication. Your phone message may be someone's first - and last - impression of you, whether it is in the words you leave as an outgoing communique’ on your telephone or what you say in response to the mechanical directive you hear when you attempt to contact someone. If the first contact a caller has will set the tone for the transaction, and often times the foundation for the relationship, what do your telephone messages say about you?

Let's begin with outgoing messages:

* A friendly greeting is vital.

* Clearly state your name and your company. Including your email address can also be helpful as it provides callers with another way to contact you.

* Providing a list of alternative phone numbers is asking your callers to hunt you down and is disrespectful of their time; they've already called you once! If possible, forward your phone calls.

* Save the surveys, quizzes and questions for when (and if) you actually speak to your caller. While your interest in their well-being may be appreciated, callers want to leave their message and move along to the next item on their agenda.

* If you cannot shorten your outgoing message, can you allow callers the option of by-passing it in the future?

Remember, be friendly, be professional and be brief!

In turn, the task of listening to incoming telephone messages can provoke a variety of responses. One of the biggest irritations most people bristle at is having to replay the message two, if not three times, simply to get the entire telephone number! Leaving a “good" telephone message is not difficult but it does take practice and awareness.

* Be aware of confidentiality issues. Is it appropriate to leave an informational message or simply ask for a return phone call? For example, suppose Kate from the public library calls and leaves word that she has the information on divorce that Mrs. Johnson requested . . . and Mr. Johnson receives the message first? This could be more than an “oops!"

* Always leave a telephone number, even if you know the other person already has it. We are a very mobile society but not everyone carries their list of contacts with them. You may have to wait hours for a simple yes or no answer simply because someone doesn't have your telephone number with him.

* It is NOT a race to see how fast you can rattle off your telephone number! Speak slowly and clearly, keeping in mind that you are relaying the information for someone else's benefit, not to see if you can remember it yourself.

* Phone numbers are written in a sequence of numbers: three for the area code, three and then four. When you state your number, don't be clever and mumble them in another cadence, say five, two and then three. Why do you want to mix people up?

* There is a simple formula when it comes to leaving a proper telephone message: state your name, your telephone number, the purpose of your call (briefly), then again, repeat your name and your telephone number. The reason for the repetition? The listener will begin writing your name and number down immediately, hear the purpose of your call, and finish up with your number again at the end. Voila`, no need to listen again because you spoke clearly and slowly enough that everything came through the first time around!

It is attention to details that can make all the difference when you are leaving a telephone message, whether it is an “incoming" or “outgoing" missive. Your proficiency with the various modes of business communication is simply another way to make an outstanding first impression.

Jodi Blackwood is a Business Etiquette & Customer Service Specialist who works with individuals and businesses to help them polish their ability to stand out among the competition. She believes that etiquette is not about being “stuffy" but about putting yourself out there in the best possible light, using courtesy and friendliness as your guide, while still allowing your own personality to shine through.

Visit for more information and to sign up for her newsletter, Etiquette Awareness.

Copyright 2008 Jodi Blackwood


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