SharpTravel Voice Mail Road Rules

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Sunday 10th October 2010
In this article
  • Handling voice mail on business trips.
  • Handling voice mail on vacation.
  • Checking voice mail from afar.

Whether you travel for work or fun, calls keep coming in back at the office. Got a client you’ve been trying to land calling while you’re sipping margaritas on the beach? Are you across the country trying to land some other big account when another important call comes through? Fear not: the voice mail greeting you leave back home can act as messenger, personal assistant and even a goodwill ambassador. Check out the dos and don’ts for leaving messages that do the job while you’re away:

General Voice Mail Rules. First, whether in town or not, always keep your business voice mail greeting brief, without sacrificing necessary information. Leave your name, the company’s name and your division. Ideally, voice mails should be changed daily, alerting clients and colleagues about whether you’re in or out of the office throughout the day. Even if you never leave your desk, a daily voice mail message indicating the day and the fact that you’re in makes you look more professional. If this seems like too much trouble, leave weekly voice mail messages indicating Monday’s date and your availability for that week.

Always leave a voice mail message when you plan to be out of the office, even if you’re just gone for a sick or personal day. A Sharp voice mail message sounds like this: "Hello, this is Mike Smith at Microsoft Consulting on Wednesday, May 10th. I’m in meetings through the morning and back in the office in the afternoon. Please leave a message and your call will be returned by the close of the business day."

Voice Mail Road Rules for Business. If you’re going out of town on business, indicate this in your greeting. Give the exact dates you will be out of the office and let callers know if and how often you plan to check messages. Also give them the option of speaking to someone right away. Here’s an example: "Hello, you’ve reached Mike Smith at Microsoft Consulting on Wednesday, May 10th. I’ll be out of the office at meetings through Friday, May 12 and will be checking messages daily at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. If you leave a message I’ll try to return your call by 8 p.m. PST the same day. If your call is urgent, please press extension 425 to reach my co-worker Jan Doe." Remember that "close of business day" usually means 5 p.m., so be specific if you plan to return calls later. This is particularly useful if you’re traveling to a different time zone.

If you do leave the name and extension of an assistant or co-worker who will field calls in your absence, make a point of giving him or her your contact information, including hotel and portable phone numbers while you’re traveling. If all of this info ends up making your greeting less than brief, put the option to reach a live person as close to the beginning of the message as possible. In the interest of brevity, leave off unnecessary info such as "leave a message after the tone." We all know the drill.

Voice Mail Road Rules for Pleasure. Recording a greeting when you’re going on vacation is a different animal altogether — after all, you probably have no desire to tear yourself away from the beach to check messages four times a day. When leaving a vacation voice mail, identify yourself as usual and then leave the dates that you’ll be away, including whether or not you’ll be checking messages. If you can stomach calling in a few times, include that you will be checking messages "periodically." Otherwise, let callers know the date you will be back in the office and returning messages. As with business travel voice mail, be sure to leave the name and extension of a co-worker whom callers can reach right away.

Here’s an example of a voice mail greeting left by a workaholic SharpMan who plans to check messages: "Hello, you’ve reached Mike Smith at Microsoft Consulting. I’ll be out of the office for the week of Monday May 8th, back in the office on Monday, May 15. I will be checking messages periodically. If you’d like to speak to someone immediately, please dial 0 and ask for Jan Smith."

SharpMan Tip: If your position doesn’t require you to, don’t be too gung ho about promising to check messages. Even business travelers have a hard time coordinating travel and calling in. If at all possible, be realistic about how "in touch" you want to be during the time you should be relaxing. The worst outcome is saying you’ll check in when you never end up doing so. If you don’t plan to check messages, indicated so by saying "I will not be checking messages." To maintain your professionalism, also avoid leaving personal information about where you’re going or the fact that you’re not out working.

Checking Your Messages. Before you leave, become familiar with the options available on your voice mail system. Most programs have a "scan" option, letting you hear just the first few seconds of each message. This will help you identify the caller so that, if it’s a low priority call, you can postpone listening to that message. Most systems also give you the option of repeating one message before going on to the next, a handy feature when you didn’t get the whole phone number the first time. Finally, make sure you’re familiar with how to retrieve a message you accidentally deleted; it can be harder to look up information (such as the client’s number or first name) when you’re away from the office.

When You Return Calls. When you must return a call from the road, take a second to organize your thoughts and key points before calling. Travel is exhausting, but that isn’t an excuse for sloppy reply voice mails. If you do reach the caller’s voice mail, leave a brief, specific message. Make sure you leave all the pertinent information, including your contact numbers (cell or hotel phone number), the best time to reach you, or a time when you plan to call again.

Remember: even though you’re traveling, your voice mail greeting remains behind as a representative of your ideal SharpWorking and SharpTraveling image. Ensure that the messages you leave make you sound as good or better than you are when you pick up a live call.

This article last updated on Sunday 10th October 2010
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