Voice mail remains a large frustration in this busy business world. And it’s not just voice mail. The automated attendant is also on the list. But that’s another story.

In an effort to help reduce voice mail frustration, here are the five most frustrating phrases that your callers don’t want to hear. These tips also apply to your cell phone voice mail.

1. I’m not at my desk right now

DUH? That’s a hot lot of news. What a boring statement. Live a little. Let your callers know where you ARE – not where you’re not. Tell them, “I AM in the office all this week” OR “I’m in a sales meeting till 3 pm.” Let them know if you do or don’t check messages.

2. Your call is very important to me

A big time waster. The caller is thinking, “Well, if I’m so darn important, where the heck is you?” And then again, think about it. Maybe the call isn’t so important to you. You just don’t need this phrase.

3. I’m sorry I missed your call

How dull. Of course, you are. (Although, there are probably some that you’re not sorry to have missed.) Leave this phrase out! It’s a given. Use the time and space for something more valuable. Like where you are and when you will return! Or, who they can call for the information.

4. I’ll call you back as soon as possible

Not interesting and not fun. And based on Telephone Doctor surveys, probably not true. The truth is most people aren’t returning their phone calls in a timely fashion. If you’re telling your callers you’ll call them back, make sure you do. If you think you may not return the call…then try this: “Go ahead and leave your phone number and I’ll DECIDE if I’ll call you back or not.” (Just kidding!) Unreturned phone calls rank high on the frustration list. “As soon as possible” is not an effective phrase. All you need is to say, “I will call you back.” (Then do it! Or have it returned on your behalf.)

5. No escape

Remember to tell callers to hit ZERO for the operator if they need more information. Or better yet, give them another name and extension. Although for the most part, that voice mail may come on also. (Then you’re into what we call Voice Mail Jail!) Main point here is to offer an alternative if you’re not there. Plus, you’ve bought back some time to say something more interesting or helpful to the caller. (Escape may not apply to cell phones.)

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is a featured Customer Service speaker at franchise, association, and corporate meetings around the world. A popular TV guest, she appeared on Oprah, the Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, as well as hundreds of other radio, television and print outlets, around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial News. The author of 9 books on her chosen topics, Nancy’s passion to help corporate America improve their communications is second only to the material she delivers. For more information, visit Nancy’s website www.nancyfriedman.com, email nancyf@telephonedoctor.com or call (314) 291-1012.

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