8 Ways to Leave the Perfect Voicemail

Many companies now offer callers the option to receive a call back when contact center wait time is too long or inconvenient. It's a great idea. When customers are given a choice, that puts them in control and removes stress, anxiety, and frustration.

But, the way the company handles the call-back option is critical. Customers need information, such as an accurate estimated hold time and when to expect a return call if that option is chosen. It's both ironic and annoying when a recording keeps looping with the message that "your call is important to us." Obviously it isn't! All the customer hears is that the company has insufficient staff to handle calls. Insult is added to injury when the message fails to state estimated hold time and bombards the customer with a sales pitch. That sends the message that your call is not important and your business is taken for granted.

When the customer has made the decision to be called back by a company representative or when he is expecting a furniture delivery or has a tentative appointment for a service call to have an appliance repaired or cable installed and misses the call and receives a voicemail, that message is also critical. If the customer gets a message that is difficult to understand and has to play it over again to hear the rep's name, phone number, or other important information, that is just as bad as holding on a long time to talk with someone in the first place.

Here are 8 ways to guarantee a concise, accurate, and friendly voicemail:

  1. "Hi, Mr. Smith. My name is William." Speak slowly and distinctly. Always use the name of the person you are calling and your own name. Refer to the customer by his last name, unless you only have his first name left on the message to you.
  2. "I hope your day is going well." Add something welcoming. A warm wish for a good day creates an instant emotional connection.
  3. "I'm happy to let you know that your furniture has arrived in our warehouse, and we're ready to schedule a convenient delivery date." The message is clear, concise and informative. Listing items in the order would provide additional useful information to assure the customer.
  4. "Please call me at 800-555-9876. Once again, that's 800-555-9876. Ask for William." It's important to repeat the number. This is especially true when the number the caller is using is different than the one appearing on the customer's caller ID.
  5. "If I'm not available, you can also speak to Tim or Mary. They have your file and can help you, too." Another example of additional useful information.
  6. "Our hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This Sunday we are closed due to the holiday." By providing hours of operation, you spare the customer the need to look up the information before returning the call.
  7. "Mr. Smith, we appreciate your business. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience." Thanking the customer is thoughtful and appreciated.
  8. When confirming an appointment, emphasize and make perfectly clear whether the customer must call back to reconfirm. Many times it is unclear whether the return call is even necessary.

Leaving a voice message should not be left to chance. Your company has a standard operating procedure for every task, and the voice message should be part of the protocol. Associates must be trained. Establish a checklist to assure consistency. Have associates brainstorm about what should be included. Create a guide and then customize every message.

Leaving a message should not be a rote chore but an opportunity to show customers that they are important, valued, and that their business is appreciated. The message is a critical component of the customer journey. Make sure your message doesn't leave the wrong message.

Richard Shapiro is founder and president of the Center for Client Retention.