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It’s OK to assume that people know how to use voice mail

June 22, 2005

Society has really hit a point where it is acceptable to assume that anyone that calls you understands the concept of voice mail. Long gone are the days where one would mistakenly assume that a demonic entity with a robotic voice has mutilated their friend and taken over their phone system. Despite this fact, pointless seconds are wasted on every outgoing voice mail message to explain this concept over and over again.

For this reason, I propose a new standard to be accepted by the public. The following guidelines should be used when preparing an outgoing voice mail message:**

1. *Do not explain that you are “away from your desk” or “unavailable to take your call.”*

This is assumed by the fact that you did not answer your phone.

2. *Do not apologize for not being able to pick up the phone.*

Phrases like “I’m sorry I missed your call” are really just false sympathies that patronize the caller and make you look weak or insincere. In most cultures, it is now considered acceptable to not be able to answer the phone at all times during the day. You probably aren’t *really* sorry anyway.

3. *State your first name only.*

It is understandable to provide a brief tidbit of information to the caller to establish a certain amount of confidence that they are leaving the message for the correct person. The sound of your voice stating your first name should be verification enough. Any words or noises past this are extraneous. The unlikelihood of accidentally dialing the wrong number and getting a person that has the same voice and first name of the person you were trying to contact does not warrant the need for stating a last name.

4. *Do not request the date and time of the call.*

This is what the “5” button is for when you are checking your voicemails. If the word “really?” just passed through your mind, then you are stupid. Do not request redundant information.

5. *Do not state that you will get back to the caller as soon as possible.*

All callers are pre-defined into two categories:

Category A: People that you want to call back

Category B: People that you want to avoid calling back.

Statements implying that all callers will be treated with the same diligence just provide false hope and encouragement to those that you didn’t want calling you in the first place.

6. *Do not actually ask the caller to leave you a message.*

This is already implied by the voicemail system and should really be obvious, but people still do it. If the caller doesn’t understand this, then they are probably a Category B caller and they would not have left a useful or coherent message anyway.

7. *Do not play 30 seconds of a bad song, state your message and the fact that you cannot get to the phone, then play 30 more seconds of the same bad song.*

When was the last time you called a voicemail and said “Ooh. I love this song.” All this does is inconvenience Category A callers. The few people that actually enjoy the song are most likely Category B callers, and encouragement from them is not wise, as stated above.

In summary, leaving an outgoing voicemail message under the new standard is simple and efficient. If your name is Mike, your message should be:


This alone will is enough to provide both the caller and the call receiver the information that they need and will save seconds out of each of their lives. When multiplied by the world’s phone utilizing population this will save millions of man hours per year, which could be used for saving the rainforest or watching more TV.


From → Science/Tech

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