5 Reasons Your Voice Mail Doesn’t Get Answered, And What To Do About It

Getting Voice Mail Returned: Do your voice mail messages go unanswered? Here are five reasons voice mail goes unanswered and what you can do to improve the likelihood that your calls are returned.

Hate voice mail? Who doesn’t!

But like it or not, voice mail is a fact of life. Whether you’re calling a business associate to share some industry news, calling a vendor to place an order, calling a new prospect to make an appointment, or just trying to reach a friend or family member, you expect to get “sent” to voice mail some of the time.

Most of the time, you expect that the person you called will return your call. When they don’t, you may feel angry, slighted or just plain annoyed. Or, if your call was a sales call, you tell yourself  the person you called isn’t such a hot prospect after all. No matter what the circumstances, in fact, you just assume the person for whom you left a message purposely chose not to return the call.

And that’s a mistake. Although voice mail is routinely used to screen calls, call avoidance isn’t the only reason voice mail doesn’t get returned. Many times calls simply can’t be returned because the message that was left wasn’t clear or wasn’t complete.

Here are five examples of callers whose voice mail may not get returned.

Break-Up Bradley
Breaking up is amazingly easy to do – if you’re using your cell phone to leave voice mail. This is particularly true if you’re riding in a car, bus, or train at the time you place the call. The movement of the vehicle can make the quality of the signal uneven. Since there’s no one responding to you on the other end, you may not be aware the signal is breaking up. As a result, the person you’re trying to reach hears something like this when they play back your message: “Hi, this is B [crackle] ee. I need t [crackle]. Call me on 917 [crackle] 21.” If the person you were calling doesn’t recognize your voice, doesn’t know your phone number and doesn’t have caller ID attached to voice mail, they won’t be able to return the call, even if they want to.

Say It In One Breath Sally
Sally is clearly in a hurry. Or maybe she’s practicing for a new reality show where the winner is the one who can say the most words in the shortest amount of time – without stopping to breathe. Sally spits out her name, the full name of her company, the department she works in, her daytime phone number, her home office phone number, her cell phone number and maybe an email address or two, and the reason for her call – all in about 10 seconds. The person receiving the voice mail has to replay it a dozen times so they can hear and write down the telephone number. Sometimes the callback number has been spoken so fast that’s it’s impossible to decipher all the numbers.

Mr. Mystery
Mr. Mystery is the guy who calls and leaves an urgent message. He wants you to call back as soon as you get in. It’s extremely important, in fact. Mr. Mystery does leave you a phone number, and the number is clear. But he doesn’t leave his name, and he may not leave any information about the problem he called about. The person playing back the voice mail may not return the call because they assume it’s some dumb sales trick to get them to respond. Or, they don’t call back because they think they’ll sound like a fool telling a switchboard operator that someone called, but they don’t know who.

Best Friend Betty
Betty thinks everyone knows her name – and phone number. So whether she’s calling an acquaintance or a vendor, she leaves a message, but doesn’t leave her phone number. Friend, and vendor, of course should remember who she is and how to reach her. Wouldn’t you?

Accent Andy
Accent Andy presents a different type of challenge to those who have to play back voice mail. Andy is from a foreign country and speaks English (or the language of whatever country he is in) with a heavy accent. The accent makes it hard for those listening to the message to understand what he is saying.

How To Make Sure Your Voice Mail Gets Returned
Many people dash off a voice mail message the way they’d order a meal from a numbered menu. (“Give me a number three with coffee.”) They expect the person at the other end to immediately know what they are talking about and respond appropriately. But, that just doesn’t happen all the time with voice mail. The person you’re calling may not recognize your voice on the voice mail, or may not know which of several products they sell you’re talking about. If you’re from out of state, they won’t know your area code unless you include it when you give your phone number.

You can increase the likelihood your voice mail will be returned by remembering these basic tips:

  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • If you know people have trouble understanding you because of an accent or any other reason, consider asking someone else to place the call for you.
  • Give your name, company name (if you’re calling from a company) and complete phone number at the beginning of the message.
  • Briefly and slowly explain why you are calling. Voice mail isn’t the place to launch into a lengthy sales pitch or a long, detailed explanation of some problem you are having.
  • Ask for a callback.
  • State the day and time you’ll be available by phone for the callback.
  • Leave an alternate method of contacting you if possible (email, for instance, or an evening phone number).
  • Don’t give a cell phone number if the phone isn’t always turned on.
  • Repeat your name and phone number slowly at the end of the message so the recipient can write it down to return your call.
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