Your Receptionist Needs You

On Tuesday of this week a local program coordinator returned to work and listened to seven voicemail messages from me. That’s uncomfortable! I can visualize her moving through each one and rolling her eyes muttering, “Not Mary Jane again.

Why did this happen and how could it have been prevented?

It started on the previous Thursday when, late in the day, I picked up a voicemail message from her indicating she was missing a vital piece of information, and that it was important I contact her or … it could cost me money. Not being one to squander funds, I did a quick bit of research on her request. I could not figure it out; I needed more details. I called her back, knowing she had likely left for the day. I outlined my confusion and told her I would call again tomorrow. 

The next day (Friday), I had a nutty schedule but I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to resolve the situation. I’d done a bit more research but was still puzzled by her request. Whenever my day allowed, I called her, each time leaving a voicemail with a few details and letting her know when I would call again. We did not connect. Along the way I did think, “Perhaps she’s in an all-day meeting, or away for the day.

On Monday I followed the same pattern. By this time I’d gathered all of my paperwork so I was able to leave her more details in my voicemail messages. But I never reached her and she did not call back.

Her return call came at 8 am on Tuesday morning. When I picked up the phone she introduced herself with laughter in her voice. “I was away from the office Friday and Monday,” she said.

My instincts had told me this was the case but I didn’t know for sure. And since her initial message sounded urgent, and I wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to follow through, I kept leaving messages. The missing piece? Her absence wasn’t indicated by her receptionist.

Voicemail is our receptionist. That’s why it was created, to allow each of us to have a way to greet and work with callers when we are unable to answer our phone, away from our office or on another  line. Think how efficient it would have been if, late on Thursday or early Friday morning, I’d connected with a voicemail that said “I’m away from the office until Tuesday at 8 am and will return all calls at that time.” It would have saved us both time and removed the cringe I experience when I think of her listening to my seven messages.

So… does your voicemail receptionist have the correct information to share with callers? If not, why not?





1 thought on “Your Receptionist Needs You”

  1. Hi Mary Jane: I did not know where you were going with this story until the end.
    Yes, I agree a voice message for Out of Office is the key and/ or to have someone on your team checking voice messages and responding with a human touch, “can I help?”
    Thanks for the reminder, Glenn


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