Please Leave a Message: Business Voicemail Etiquette Tips

Why do extroverts have voicemail? To never miss a call. Why do introverts have voicemail? To never answer the phone.” ~ Devora Zack, American business writer

Here is the weekly roundup of activity from Laura Stack’s blog, columns, podcast, and other featured articles. Scroll down to read the complete roundup of productivity resources to help you create Maximum Results in Minimum Time.

This week on the Blog

Please Leave a Message: Business Voicemail Etiquette Tips

Please Leave a Message: Business Voicemail Etiquette Tips by Laura Stack #productivityOf all the communication methods commonly used in modern business, telephony—e.g., telephone calls and associated technology—is probably the oldest and best established. For the Millennials among us, there hasn’t been a time when voicemail didn’t exist; in fact, many of you grew up with it on your cell phones. Some of us, on the other hand, who recall when cell phones were bigger than bricks, and voicemail was something new and kinda cool.

Obviously, the new has worn off that crystal chandelier, to borrow a line from Charley Pride. Some of us have used voicemail for decades, but just because we’re used to it doesn’t mean we’re leaving good messages. ( <–CLICK TO TWEET) We’ve all seen—or rather heard—dysfunction in action. For example: suppose you receive the message, “Hi. This is John from the car dealership. Please call me.” Arrrgh! What do you want? If my car ready to be picked up? Do you need to order a part? Did you wreck it? If you’re selling something, you for sure aren’t getting a call back. Worse is when they don’t even identify the company. If you know five Johns, which one do you call? Why did he call in the first place? Whom does he represent? Do I have time for this conversation? Details! Give me details!

Even more frustrating is something like the following story, related by a team leader looking for a new writer for his group. A colleague called and recommended a friend, providing her name and number at the end of a long, rambling message. When he listened to the message, the recipient had no way to write down the person’s name or number, and by the time he got back to a place where he could, he couldn’t bear listening to that awful message again… so ­boop! He deleted it, along with the candidate’s possibility of getting the job. Why didn’t the pertinent info get left up front, and then the detail?

Basic Etiquette 

A communication method is useful only to the extent to which it actually conveys the intended message. Voicemail can actually serve as a great tool in some circumstances. Have you ever had an email go back and forth and back and forth, and thought, “If we just would have picked up the phone…” Voicemail can be great when you want someone to hear emotion in your voice. It’s awesome when you need to leave a quick message with detail that will take longer to type out and punctuate correct. It’s helpful if you don’t have the time to actually talk with someone and just need to relay a bit of information. It’s handy when someone you really need to talk to with isn’t there to answer the phone (or screens their calls). However, it can be as useless as an inflatable dartboard when mishandled.

To maximize its use—and its productivity—there are certain protocols to consider:

  1. Don’t try to make your voicemail message funny or cutesy: make it short and to the point, stating your name and affiliation, asking the caller to leave a brief message and repeat any phone numbers or email addresses twice, even if they think you have it.
  2. Productivity is about saving other people’s time, too. In that spirit, make sure you respond to voicemails efficiently (what actually check them?). A voicemail box so full no one can leave a message comes across as sloppy and unprofessional.
  3. If you’re on an extended vacation and won’t be checking in, set the system to roll your calls over to a colleague who can handle them expeditiously and provide good customer service (internal or external).
  4. When you leave a message, begin with your name, affiliation and phone number, and then state your message concisely.
  5. Don’t go on and on and on and on…plan your message before you call, so it is succinct and no more than 60 seconds.
  6. End messages with your name and phone number again, all clearly stated in a clear voice.
  7. If you choke or burp in the middle of the message, don’t hang up! Most systems let you review it, delete it, and leave another. You surely don’t want to do that with a client or potential client.

Simplicity Squared 

Telephones have proven a boon for business, especially since high long distance rates went the way of the dodo. By now, we should have gotten used to handling voicemail correctly, since nearly all of us use it in our personal as well as business lives. But as with everything, it’s easy to get rusty or sloppy. So whether you’re setting up voicemail on your phone, or leaving a voicemail message on someone else’s, take the time to shine up your voicemail skills with the tips I’ve outlined above. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and like all productivity initiatives, the time you do spend more than pays for itself.

What voicemail protocols would you add to this list? I’m sure there are many more pet peeves out there.

This week on LinkedIn:

The Perfect World: Helping Your Team Understand and Commit to Team Goals

The Perfect World: Helping Your Team Understand and Commit to Team Goals by Laura Stackn #productivityIn a near-perfect world—the type most people would love when they join a new company—a department, division, or team’s leader would act purely as a facilitator, establishing the group’s goals, communicating them plainly to everyone on the team, and clearing the way from the team’s current location to their future destination. He or she would promote the team goals in a way that made it clear what each team member should expect, precisely what they needed to do, and how the tasks the team member accomplished moved the entire organization toward its ultimate goals. Read More on LinkedIn.

In the news:

How to achieve synergy in your business by mimicking perfume makers at The Business Journals

Recommended Articles:

Check Your Vibes: 8 Ways To Find Extra Time In Your Day

7 Tips To Banish ‘Busy-Ness’ And Supercharge Your Productivity


Tune in this week as Laura talks about Deciding What NOT to Do Next.

© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.



  1. Great tips, Laura. I would like to reiterate to leave your name when leaving a message. If I don’t know who I’m calling, I will not call them back. My time is too precious!

  2. Jack Delivuk says:

    One frequent voice mail problem is persons who give their names and numbers so fast you can barely understand them. Giving our names and numbers quickly can easily become a bad habit. Please give your name slowly and your number at dictation speed. I do not like listening to a message 2 or 4 times to write down the phone number.

    • That’s a great one! Thanks for adding. So say the number S-L-O-W-L-Y as you think of someone writing it down. Then repeat it again at the end, so you don’t have to reverse.

  3. Richard Moscato says:

    I agree with all the comments, but especially the saying the number slowly!

  4. “Don’t try to make your voicemail message funny or cutesy.” I agree. This type of voicemail can be really offensive sometimes or really stupid. Thank you for a very useful article, Laura!