Here’s a great voice mail technique that will help boost your productivity by avoiding unnecessary phone distractions. The strategy I’ll share involves time boxing to only allow calls between certain hours on certain days. It’s unfortunate but we’ve been conditioned to answer a ringing phone ever since we’ve been little children. This creates the unintended consequence later in life of letting the phone interrupt your productivity and giving the impression that you’re available for distraction at all hours.
Instead of being always accessible, you want to let other people know the specific hours when you will be available to take calls. For example you can have phone hours from 10 AM to 12pm and from 2 to 3 PM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. During those times you don’t schedule any meetings nor do you plan to work. Those hours are for either:
1. Fielding calls.
2. Going through your existing phone messages.
This is a commitment that you make in your calendar to return calls that you’ve got since the last time check your messages. This also helps to send a message to your friends and clients that you take your time seriously and that you are very structured about your time. This will make it less likely for people to try to contact you outside of those hours – usually your closest friends and clients will get the message and leave you alone outside of your appointed phone hours.
Caveat: Do you need to be available for emergencies?
If you need to be accessible during all hours for client emergencies, then a simple voicemail reminding people of when your phone hours are might not work for all of your clients. In this case you can consider hiring your own virtual assistant to field calls during off hours. VirtualStaffFinder.com and Odesk.com are a couple of sites for finding virtual assistants.
Putting Together Our Voicemail Message
Hi this is ___.
Sorry that I missed your call but please note that I only field and return calls on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 12 and 3 PM Pacific time.
Please leave me a message after the tone and I'll return your call during those times.
If this is an emergency please call Janet at ___.
Thank you and I look forward to talking with you soon.
This message helps cut down on voicemail messages as many people will try to catch you during those hours instead. If you deal with lots of customer or client queries which are vague, you might need to prompt your callers to leave better messages. Here’s an example addendum to the above script to help guide your callers into leaving better voicemail messages:
After the tone please leave your name, phone number as well as a detailed message that tells me exactly the purpose of your call and how I can specifically help you. I may not be able to return your call if I don't get enough details as to why you’re calling.
Holidays and Business Trips
Holidays and other trips can be a great way to relax and unwind, but what about the conga line of voicemail messages that are waiting for you when you return? You can proactively record an away from the phone message once you realize that you’re not going to be able to field calls during your usual hours. Take it a step further and completely turn off the ability for them to leave messages during your vacation: if it’s an emergency they can call your assistant. Here’s the script:
Hi this is ___ and I'll be out of the office from August 1st until August 30th.
During that time I'll not be returning calls and this voicemail will not accept any messages.
If you have an urgent matter that cannot wait until I return on September 1st then please contact Janet at ___.
Otherwise please call me back after I return on September 1st. I look forward to talking to you then.
That was easy, right? No longer will you be stressed at all the messages blowing up your inbox when you return from a holiday or extended trip.