Even though we’ve all been spending more time having video meetings this year, our global pandemic has also created a bit of a renaissance for phone conversations. The challenge has been – and remains – how to reach people on the phone.
Have they returned to the office? Are they working from home? Does their office voicemail indicate how to reach them? Are they working limited hours? Is the cellphone number for work and their personal number? And what about the upcoming holiday season? Who will be available when?
What are the steps to keep your customers and prospects informed even when you’re not working? Do you already have them in place?
1) Set aside your assumptions
While you may be very diligent in posting your hours and contact information on your website, or including it in social feeds, or even including it in every email, you can’t assume that everyone has read and acknowledged this information. Make sure you have updated information available no matter how your customers and prospects choose to connect. This includes your voicemail.
2) Think of voicemail as a person.
For years and years (and years) only the upper echelon of business had receptionists. And then voicemail arrived. Now we all have receptionists … but we don’t treat them very well. The easiest and best way to create an effective voicemail message – over the holidays and anytime – is to think of it as a person. If you were paying someone to answer your phone, what would you have them say? That’s the message you want to create.
3) Skip all the dates.
You know what I mean – “I’m on vacation from … through to … .” It causes confusion. Instead, simply state when you will be back at work, for example, “I’ll be back working on Monday, January 4th.”
4) Be honest.
You are taking well-deserved time off and you deserve to enjoy it without work interruptions. We all deserve this and it’s essential to our health and our creativity. So, don’t say you are monitoring and returning messages unless you mean it. The tone of your voice betrays you when this isn’t true.
5) Speak slowly – and repeat.
Many vacation messages include the option to contact someone else, which is great customer service. But it’s totally defeated if the information is given so quickly that the additional name and phone number can’t be understood. Or if someone has to call back several times in order to write it down. As a rule, we are not prepared to “take a message” when we make outbound calls. Take this into consideration, stating names and phone numbers slowly and clearly, at the same speed it would take you to write them down. Then say them again so your caller can check what they’ve written down.
Here’s a sample of the voicemail The Phone Lady will have over the holiday:
Seasons Greetings and Merry Christmas. You’ve reached the office of Mary Jane Copps, The Phone Lady. The office is closed for the holiday and this voicemail is not being monitored. I’ll be back at my desk on Monday, January 4, 2021. If you believe your request to be urgent, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com. I’ll respond as soon as possible. Thanks for your call and Happy New Year!
6) Sound happy.
After all, while I’m listening to your message you are enjoying a holiday!