Having Fun With Voicemail


One of the things I take great care with each and every day is the voicemail message I leave for those who call in only to miss me and leave a message. I know that as an Employment Counsellor facilitating workshops most days, the likelihood that I’ll be there to speak with the caller myself is low, and thus, the opposite is true; there’s a high probability that the people calling me will have to leave a message.

So each and every day, while my computer is going through the process of turning on and loading the start-up programs, I pick up the phone and punch in the codes to get to the part where I can leave a personal greeting. It is a strong preference of my employer that these messages are fresh each day with the date included so that callers can determine whether you are in the office or not and when you might be able to be reached or return the call.

Now as I say, I put some thought into the message I’ll record. It’s not a lengthy process, and I don’t need to write it out first or anything, it just flows. So if you called me you might hear something like this:

“Hi, you’ve reached Kelly Mitchell, Employment Counsellor with the Region of Durham. Today is Monday February 8th. It’s the first day of a new week, and there’s no better day to start something new. No matter what happened last week or over the weekend, here’s your chance to start fresh. Do something today that you’re future self will thank you for. Leave me a message including your name and phone number and you  just know I’m going to get back to you as soon as I can – probably in the afternoon. Count on me and until then, make sure you make Monday count; thanks for phoning.”

Nothing incredible to be sure, but certainly something interesting for the caller to listen to; well I think so anyhow. So you can imagine my surprise and immediate disappointment this afternoon when I was told by a woman on the phone that my messages were hard to follow.

I said out loud, “Hard to follow?” My mind raced to think what I had recorded and how my message might have been unclear. Sure I add a little personality in there, a quote of the day, job search tip, or an outrageously animated voice to bring a chuckle and smile to the face of the caller. In terms of clarity however, I wondered what was so hard to follow and understand.

“No I love them!” she said. I mean they are so unexpected and different from what everyone else’s answering machines say. I never know what you’ll say and you get me thinking. Then all of a sudden when I’m to leave my message I forget what I have to say almost. That’s what I mean; your messages are so good they are hard to follow.” So here I was initially confused and just a tad disappointed when I thought she meant they were hard to understand, and then just as quickly I felt good and vindicated as the intent of my message obviously had made an impact for good.

On March the 17th my voice will take on an Irish lilt for St. Patrick’s Day. At Halloween, my message is actually Igor asking the caller to leave a message for Kelly Mitchell, Employment Counsellor when all of a sudden Dracula interrupts and wants to know what Igor is up to. Callers tell me they think its two people talking but really their both my voices. Mondays are fresh beginnings, Tuesdays all about getting going, Wednesdays the day to hang in there and Thursdays a day not to lose waiting for Friday. Friday of course is the day to push for a great finish and the weekends to recoup your energy. Well that’s a general theme anyhow but there are plenty of variations.

Now yes this is a business line and I’m representing my employer so the messages have to be professional more often than not – but they can also include some individual personality; some life and exuberance. I imagine myself calling in and the vast majority are people who are out of work and stressed out. So a voice full of energy and enthusiasm that more often than not makes people laugh and smile can’t be wrong can it? Many a message I listen to from those who call start off actually commenting on the message I’ve left for them; and I can hear them chuckling.

No I’m not bi-polar, I don’t have split personalities, nor am I schizophrenic. I am in a position where I encounter a lot of human suffering, heartbreak and disappointment. The unemployed often have high highs and low lows. A formal professional greeting devoid of any personality might work in some settings, and that’s fine. However, keeping people entertained while informed is more my style and it works for me. It might work for you but then again, we’re all different.

If you find you’d like to put your callers in a better mood when leaving you messages you are welcome to try out this voicemail exercise. See if it makes a difference in the tone you set for callers.

Now of course I’m wondering if my phone will be ringing off the hook in the next few days…

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