DIY

Can you rely on voice mail?

Voice mail is still a source of great frustration, despite its common usage. There is an assumption that a message left on voice mail is a communication miss and that it will need to be followed up later with another call. Why don't we trust voice mail?

Voice mail is still a source of great frustration, despite its being in common usage. There is an assumption that a message left on voice mail is a communication miss and that it will need to be followed up later with another call.

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There is nothing wrong with the technology per se, but it is very easy to ignore voice mail and as such, people’s trust in it is poor. The failing is usually a human one. If the communication is even remotely confrontational, the temptation to delete the voice mail and get on with something more pleasurable is immense. We can’t always answer our phones. If, like me, you work solely with a mobile phone, there are times when it is out of range of a transmitter or in an environment where its use is not permitted.

Recently I was doing a job in a prison (it’s OK, I got out when I was finished) where I was not permitted to take my phone with me. I left it in the car to save having to log it in with the gate guard and log it out afterward, and I was in the prison for only about 45 minutes. When I came out, I noted that there were three missed calls but only one voicemail. I called the person who left me a voice mail back. It turns out he had made all three calls and was annoyed that I hadn’t answered. I explained the reason and asked what he needed. I don’t think he was really annoyed with me, but I think it was the fact that he had resigned himself to having to chase me until I got back because, like many others, he did not trust voice mail.

How can we turn this situation around?

There are two things that could help: one is to record a new message daily that states what you will be doing. The problem with a lot of messages is that they are never changed so you don’t know if the person is merely away from the phone for a couple of minutes or on a six-month sabbatical. A message stating today's date and your availability is a great help at putting people’s minds at rest.

I’m guilty of this myself. I change my message only if I am on vacation or off work for any reason. A daily update takes only a few seconds and is very reassuring for a caller who is anxious to speak to you. If they find out that you won’t be responding for a couple of weeks, they will try somebody else.

The other thing we can do is to make sure that we always acknowledge voice mails. Indeed it is always a good idea to acknowledge an e-mail for the same reason. I am shocked when people express surprise when I return a call from voice mail, yet it is not surprising, it is not unusual, for there to be no response from a voice mail. Trust in the technology will come only when people start to make time for voice mail replies.

21 comments
Chug
Chug

Also, if you're the person calling or leaving the message, leave good messages. On my cell phone, I never call back "missed calls" even when it's someone I know. If you want a call back, leave a message. I figure if it wasn't important enough for them to leave a message they don't really need a call back. Also, when messages are left (particularly on work voice mail) I tend to give lower priority messages that just say "please call me back". Leave some detail as to the subject matter that you're calling about.

Selltekk
Selltekk

If a company implements unified messaging, and it is configured to allow this, you can either check your VM the old fashioned way, or check your email, and you will see a message from voicemail and listen to it on your PC or smartphone...HUZZAH for VoIP!

user support
user support

For the most part I can better convey my thoughts in an email. When the message is more like technical documentation, I figure it is easier to pickup the phone. As part of my voicemail, I will leave a short message saying that I thought that it was easier to resolve the issue by phone rather than an email so the caller understands my intentions. I no longer use a pager and do not have a mobile phone for my job. The desk phone that I use at work has a lot of features but they are tedious to use in comparison with the email features of the computer. I only use the standard phone greeting and do not use an Out of Office or the screening feature. I rarely call the voicemail remotely to retrieve messages. If you leave a message, I will get back to you as soon as I get back to my desk and see the light blinking.

TomMerritt
TomMerritt

I think that rather than trust, the real problem with voice mail is the fact that you KNOW the guy is going to call you back when you're in the middle of something, which in our industry, is most of the time. My car is my happy place. When Im driving between clients, I can return calls without interruption. I seldom leave voice mails, because I know I'm going to get a call back right when I'm in the middle of the next phone call. I then have to deal with the "beep" without running off the road, which at my age, is a challenge, especially when I'm drinking coffee, which is most of the time. I'll often pull over (for coffee) and send an EMail from my phone, hoping he'll reply via EMail.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

listen to the voice mail message properly and leave messages on the wrong mail system, I can' t believe anyone regards it as safe for anything but the most trivial of messages. I've told people for years I don't have or use voice mail, but a lot of people still abuse me for not returning the call they left on my voice mail - I often wonder what the other people thought of the strange messages they got.

i.t
i.t

I know that I hate getting a voice mail message because with my phone its a real hassle pressing keys after I have made the call, I use a HTC Touch Diamond and I have to dial the voice mail, then after holding the phone to my head it re-locks and goes to the home screen so when I want to press a key I have to unlock the phone, click the phone Icon, select the phone Icon AGAIN then click keypad then press the right number button, its a pain. but voice mail in its self is just annoying, that stupid little icon at the top that won't go away til you phone voice mail. fact is, most of the time what is said in a voice mail message could just as easily have been sent as a text and then you would have a record of it.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

will just hang up if we're calling another tech and the call goes to voice mail. Almost all of us universally ignore our voice mail and use the missed calls list to return calls. The only exception to this I'm aware of is if the call is from a customer rep or a number that's not in the company phone book.

Jordon
Jordon

I couldn't count how many times someone has left me a three minute message to end it with mumbling an unintelligible return phone number. There's three minutes of my life I can't get back.

inet32
inet32

"The problem with a lot of messages is that they are never changed so you don?t know if the person is merely away from the phone for a couple of minutes or on a six-month sabbatical. A message stating today?s date and your availability is a great help at putting people?s minds at rest." YES! Probably my single biggest reason for not leaving messages is that I don't know if I'm going to hear back in 5 minutes or 5 days. But related to that is that when I DO hear back I may not be at my computer or I might not be interruptable, or I might be on the phone so we just end up in telephone tag. I prefer email because: 1. I can compose my thoughts better than between the beep and the timeout. 2. Both parties have a record of the entire conversation. 3. Both parties can respond at their ease instead of being interrupted. 4. Other documents, images, and links can be attached. One BIG advantage of the phone, though, is that subtleties and emotions communicate much better via voice than text. But for those conversations I prefer to schedule them so people aren't rushed or interrupted.

NickinSD2004
NickinSD2004

I do rely on voice mail and check mine regularly. It is a valuable tool for me to be able to screen my calls when I don't recognize the caller's number. If they leave a message, I return the call (assuming its' not a sales call). If a message is not left and I know the caller's phone number, I return the call. It sounds like the caller in the post was rather impatient.

blarman
blarman

Plain and simple: voice mail is too much work. It takes too much time to retrieve messages, to set custom away messages, to write down everything said on the message, etc. It's more a hassle than a value. The nice thing is that because it takes extra work, there's almost no spam!

dbrez
dbrez

Most times, voice mail is used as a screening tool. Many times in the business environment the message is just deleted and forgotten about and sadly it has found its way into our personal lives as well.

elangomatt
elangomatt

I am guilty of this on occasion. Sometimes I just want to ask a quick question of someone, but if they are not available it isn't worth having them call back later with the info. Especially since I can usually get the info from another source, but I was just being lazy. I hate it when people occasionally call back based on their missed call. I feel like telling them that if I wanted a call back, I would have left a voicemail.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I am more likely to return calls if the person leaves a message rather than one who does not. Very rarely will I return a call if no message is left...especially if I don't recognize the number. I tend to get soliciting calls on my cell phone, therefore I don't go through my missed calls and call back every number since some of those are sales calls. I do however go through my voicemails and if I need to return a call, I will. I don't see this being any less/more reliable than email. In the same way we ignore calls and voice mails, we can do the same with emails. I always like those people who send you an email, then 1 minute later they are on the phone calling to see if you received their not-so-urgent email! Talk about lack of faith in technology.

nberigan
nberigan

I avoid voicemail because people are so much less organized when they adlib their messages. I usually get respondents to answer at least 65-70% of the questions I ask them in an email and I would guess that a voice mail response is somewhere around 35-40%. These are frontline healthcare professionals and the likelihood of getting them live on a call back is less than 20%. So a series of poorly answered requests for information just doesn't cut it for me. In an email, you can bullet, highlight and open and close with your key point(s). You can slowly train people to your communication structure so that they come to learn that a copy of the issue identifier (Heat tickets in our case) in the subject line gets them faster answers. If I were to rely on voice mail, it would be like voluntarily consigning myself to the Tower of Babel.

shawkins
shawkins

It takes me a lot more time to dial into my voice mail account, enter a password, work through the little maze of prompts, listen to the messages, write it all down as I go, back up when I can't understand the caller, then...... Call the person back and then type up an email to others involved because I can't forward the damn voice mail I received. Also, can you tell me how to print out a voice mail? Guess you can tell that I am not fond of voice mail. In my mind, it's a PITA.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]...I use a HTC Touch Diamond and I have to dial the voice mail, then after holding the phone to my head it re-locks and goes to the home screen so when I want to press a key I have to unlock the phone, click the phone Icon, select the phone Icon AGAIN then click keypad then press the right number button,...[/i] Not sure, but I believe you can change that behavior in the phone settings. If you can't, it might be time to change phones.

travelin_guy
travelin_guy

I have worked with a few people over the years who would avoid responding to emails but would leave really long voice messages. Most of us in computers are pretty heavy to the visual side. That makes us much more comfortable with email. A telling thing is having to write notes to capture the voice message.

bryantwalley
bryantwalley

I do not and will not use voice mail. There have been too many times in the past where someone has said they left a voicemail but didn't or I didn't get it and vice verse. Point is there is no wasy to track it. If it is importaint. Talk directly to the person and follow it with and email. I disabled my voice mail several years ago and still have people today tell me they tried to get me and i didn't answer so they left me a voice mail and I never called back. Right.

sterghe
sterghe

I hate voice mail. I *really* hate voice mail. I also acknowledge that other people want to call me on the telephone, and I need to return their calls if I'm going to be a responsible person. So, my voice mail message gives my public e-mail address as an alternate contact. ("If you need to reach me quickly, try ...") Since that doesn't work for everyone, the next layer is a transcription service like YouMail or the soon-to-be-open-to-everyone Google Voice. E-mail messages get transcribed, albeit with some errors, and sent to e-mail. The original recording is still available--not just on the phone, but via a tidier mp3 download. The tiny mp3 files can be stored indefinitely without grumpy automated "Voice Mail Full" messages, and can be renamed so the file names tell me the sender and gist of the message. Another convenience is that YouMail lets me record different messages for different people. My default greets the caller by the name on the caller ID, overridden by my own directory--this discourages telemarketers who want to hide, btw. I have different messages for family. I look like I'm really on top of my voice mail even though I can't stand the system and actually deal with virtually all of it through e-mail--hooray! Sterghe

i.t
i.t

From what I can tell this is just windows mobile, and its like that on many phones, I've used an LG KU990 and LG Prada and they both do the same when you answer calls, Lock. I'm sure I could change the behaviour if I wanted but then I really can't be bothered as I hardly ever get voice mail with my greeting of "Don't leave me a voice mail, I won't listen to it and will hate you also". I am hoping the TouchPro2 will be better when I get that. However this doesn't change the fact that I absolutely hate people leaving me voice mail whether on MY phone or not.

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