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Quickly Creating a Negative Impression

This past Thursday, while doing some phonework, I encountered a phone option that, while I knew of its existence, I’d never experienced in a business setting. And I hope I never do again!

Here’s the story:

I had about 90 minutes to spend on a client project and was then going to be away from my office for several days. To avoid creating phone tag, I left messages stating the reason for my call and that, if they weren’t able to return my call that morning, I would follow up with them again next week.

I did receive several callbacks, among them one where, when I picked up the phone, a very staccato automated voice (you know the one I mean) told me that I was “receiving a text to landline message from 9-0-2-5-5-5-4-3-2-1”. I waited on the line thinking it might be from my cell phone provider or perhaps from one of the young people in my life.

But it was a business call, delivered not with the intimacy and character of Apple’s Siri, but with a very old-fashioned computer voice, something from a Captain James T. Kirk episode of Star Trek or perhaps from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And the disembodied, mechanical message? “In a meeting until 1 pm. How can I help you?”


First, this response was sent without listening to my voicemail message. While this is common among friends and spouses, it is a business faux pas. If someone takes the time to leave you a voicemail message explaining the reason for their call, have the courtesy to listen to it and respond based on the additional knowledge it provides.

Second, the message itself breaks my cardinal rule of building great relationships – “It’s Not About You!”  The sole purpose of the message was not about my call, but about them, allowing them to multi-task, get things done, move through their to-do list, put the task of communication back on me as quickly as possible.

Those who know me know I get great joy out of completing tasks but firmly believe in balancing the “to do” with quality, brand and relationship.

So, if you are tempted to employ the text to landline or text to voicemail function on your phone … don’t do it. It will not represent you well, and you’ve worked too hard to let that happen.

Have you experienced this type of text messaging? What is your reaction? Have you used it yourself? Was is useful? Do share your thoughts!

0 thoughts on “Quickly Creating a Negative Impression”

    • Great advice, Linda. The message itself is startling enough without the mystery of wondering who left it for you. mj

    • Thanks for sharing this, Cathy. I’m sure you are not alone and that many people would make this same choice – and make it quickly. mj

  1. I think some people have it set up to do this automatically if they are not going to be able to respond to messages…. it is however very frustrating because as you say they have missed the intent of the message and put it back on you to follow up. I even received one that said they were in a meeting until whatever time and they would call me back shortly but never called. That was very frustrating too. Good thoughts MJ thanks!

    PS – one other mistake that I have made is calling people back before I have listened to their message (thinking I’m being prompt and helpful)…. thank goodness it was my husband and not a business client but he pointed out that if I had listened to my message I wouldn’t have had to call him back and also he would not have had to re-explain what he had on the message. Just something else to think about 🙂


    • Thanks, Shelley, for pointing out that it could be set up to send the message automatically. In some cases, this would be very alienating, I think. And yes, important to listen to voicemail before returning calls. Great story to share!

  2. Another alienating (and very disorienting) function: I’ve encountered a phone that responds to my call in a human-sounding voice and says, “Hi Raleigh”….and then segues into a pre-recorded out-of-office/unavailable message…I hate it. The creator thought it was wonderful. Go figure.

    • Thanks for sharing this story, Raleigh. I haven’t run into this yet, but I know I won’t like it either! mj

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