Can They Hear You Now? 9 Tips For Better Phone Messages

Nov. 4, 2016

The world may be moving beyond leaving voice messages, but there are still time when they are necessary.  Here are nine tips to ensure your voice messages are understandable.

It is frustrating to receive a voice mail that cannot be understood.  Personally, I get at least one garbled or partly garbled message a week.  Is it something important?  I don’t know.  It was important enough to someone to call and take the time to leave the message.  While the following tips seem obvious, maybe they are not.  Consider them a refresher that you can share with your CSRs, dispatchers, and salespeople.

1. Use Tone Consciously

Remember the well-known research by UCLA professor, Albert Mehrabian.  He found that 55% of communication is based on body language.  Seven percent is the actual words and 38% is tonality.  Without body language, the tone used is extremely important.  Think about it before you leave the message to ensure that the tone reinforces the message you wish to leave.

2. Enunciate

People do not always make are receive calls under the best of circumstances if one part is using a mobile phone or VOIP.  If the cell or Internet connection isn’t great on one end of the call, it can be difficult to understand clear speech.  It can be impossible if the caller is mumbling.  Speak distinctly.  Think of Eliza Doolittle in the movie, “My Fair Lady.”

3. Speak Slowly

When you are leaving a message, slow down.  Speak clearly.  When you speak to fast, itcanbeasdifficulttolistentoasitistoreadthisrunonsentence (it can be as difficult to listen to as it is to read this run on sentence).

4. Provide the Necessary Information

What does the call recipient need to know?  Make sure you include all of the necessary information.  Unless you are calling a family member or close personal friend, simply asking someone to call you back without offering a reason is a recipe for unreturned calls.

5. Keep It Short

While you want to provide the necessary information, you do not want to provide too much information.  Do not go on and on.  Value the time of the call recipient by only providing the necessary information. 

6. Repeat Your Name

One of the most important pieces of information is your name.  Repeat your name and company name if you do not know the call recipient well.  State it at the beginning of the call and at the end.  This is especially important for people with unusual names.

7. Repeat Your Number

Usually the last piece of information a caller leaves on a voice mail message is the phone number.  The message recipient is unlikely to remember a 10 digit phone number, which means writing it down.  Slowing down when stating the phone number and repeating it facilitates getting the number recorded.  Redundancy dramatically increases the chance that your phone number will be captured.  It may be hard to understand the first time it is left, but not the first and second.

8. Give the Action Step

What do you want the message recipient to do?  When?  Like direct marketing, every message should have a purpose and an action you would like the caller to take.  Usually the action is to return the call, but not always.  State it clearly.

9. Keep Control

When you leave a message, you assume that it will be received and understood.  You punt the football to the message recipient.  However, if want to ensure the loop is closed, keep the ball.  For example, you can tell the message recipient that you will call back in a few days if you do not hear from the message recipient.

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About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.