The Five Most Frustrating Voice Mail Phrases

By Nancy Friedman

Avoid wasting time with meaningless phrases. Instead, provide information that is honest, useful, and valuable. And think of each message you leave as your electronic business card.

Most of us live and swear by our cell phones. But when was the last time you called your own cell phone to hear what your callers are hearing?

Call your cell phone from another phone and listen to your message. How do you sound? Too serious? Not smiling? Are you using semi-useless or frustrating phrases? Great if you’re not; however, so many cell phones have greetings that aren’t of much value.

Here are the five most frustrating voice mail phrases used on so many phones. And so easy to fix.

  1. “I’m not at my desk right now.”
    Duh? That's a hot lot of news! Callers need and want to know where you are, not where you're not. Try, “I am in the offce all this week.” Or “I'm in a meeting until 3:00 P.M.” Or “Out in the feld and will return calls later today.
  2. “Your call is very important to me.”
    The caller is thinking: “Well, if I am so darn important, where the heck are you?” And then again, think about it. Maybe the call isn't so important to you. You just don't need this statement. It's semi useless.
  3. “I’m sorry I missed your call.”
    Really? Well sometimes you're not sorry. Sometimes, you re glad you missed that call. Best to leave this one out! Use the time and space for something more valuable.
  4. “I’ll call you back as soon as possible.”
    Well, Nancy, what's wrong with this one? It's simply not effective. Everyone's “as soon as possible” is different. And we will never exceed customer or client expectations with as soon as possible.” The statement should be, “I will return your call.
  5. “Good bye.”
    Although “good bye” is the customary closing for a voice mail message, it is frustrating when it comes too soon, when you don't leave the caller any information about how to reach you. At least tell callers to “hit zero for the operator should you need more information.” The best would be to give a name and extension. Or leave a secondary phone number or email address someplace where your client or prospect can reach you if necessary.

Leaving A Message

Left messages come in three varieties: poor, average, and great.

Poor: “Hey! Hi, this is Bob. Gimme a call.” And believe me, this is done.

Average: “Hi, this is Bob at Acme REALTORS®. Call me at 437-8748.” Usually the phone number is said way too fast, and the recipient cannot understand it.

Great: “Hi Bob, this is Nancy Friedman at Friedman REALTORS®. I’d like to get with you to talk about the meeting on Monday the 27th. Let me know if you’d like to meet at your offce or ours. I’ll arrange to have lunch brought in at either place. I’m at 314—that’s central time in St. Louis, Missouri—314-291-1012. Again, 314-291-1012. Look forward to it.”

That message is flled with key information—and delivered with a smile.

The message you leave for someone else is your electronic business card. It needs to be great. Nothing less.

Let’s not make it any more diffcult than it is. Whether you are receiving a call or leaving a message, voice mail is a productivity enhancer.

Nancy Friedman is the president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, St. Louis, Missouri, and the author of nine books about customer service and sales. She helps companies improve communication among co-workers and with their customers, and has been a featured speaker at National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), franchise, and corporate conferences. To learn more, call 314-291-1012 or visit