“I need to talk to Bob Jones about my order right away.”

“I need to talk to Bob Jones about my order right away.”

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.


You call Bob Jones at Acme Manufacturing. You are greeted by an operator. You ask for Bob Jones. The operator transfers the call. It rings five times and a recording comes on: “Hi this is Bob, I’m either on my phone or away from my desk, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” Rats I didn’t call to talk to Bob’s voicemail, I CALLED TO TALK TO BOB.

Blankety, blank voicemail.

Is voicemail here to stay? Sure.

Will there always be voicemail misuse and abuse? Surer.

Is there a “best way” to handle transferring calls into voice mail?


Andy Dinkin, CEO of Charlotte-based Tegra Telephone Systems is dedicated to better internal and external communications through the proper use of the telephone. I asked Andy for his formula for the “perfect way to transfer a call into voice mail.” Here it is:

1. Answer live. A human being (receptionist) answers the incoming call with a sincere friendly greeting.

2. Find out who and what, fast. The receptionist determines who the call is for, and what the status is of the person the incoming call is for (available, on the phone, out to lunch, out of the office, in a meeting, etc).

3. Tell the truth about the status of the person being called. If the desired party is on the phone, give notice about what’s happening, and know how the called party likes his or her calls handled. (NOTE: Your phone system should allow all calling, transferring, and status options to be known and accomplished without the receptionist leaving his or her seat.)

4. Entertain the caller on hold. While the outside caller is on hold, he or she should be listening to music or a message on hold. This makes waiting on hold less annoying.

5. Give the caller (the courtesy of) all options. If the called party is unable to take the incoming call, the receptionist should say, “Mr. Jones is unavailable. Can someone else help you, can I take a message, or would you like to leave a personal message in Mr. Jones’s voicemail? that way he can get back to you with an answer.

6. Take a written message if asked but have the capability to just record it. Some people just don’t want to (like to) leave a voice mail message. TECHNOLOGY NOTE: If the caller chooses to have a written message taken, your phone system should have the ability to record what the caller is saying and then transfer the live conversation into the recipients voice mail. This way the information is conveyed exactly as it was given by the caller without a chance for error in the written transfer. If you are technologically impaired, you’ll have to take a written message. DUMB MOVE: Your worst option which MANY companies employ is to say, “We don’t take messages, you’ll have to leave a voice mail message or call back.” What a nice thing to say to a million dollar customer or prospect.

7. At last to voice mail. If the outside caller chooses to leave a message in voice mail, the receptionist must have the ability to send the caller directly to the recipient’s personal greeting. Asking the outside caller to enter an extension number or even worse, hangup and call another number, is unacceptable.

PRICE vs. COST: If you “saved money” on the phone system, and your customers hate it, and you begin to lose business, how much has it saved you? REMEDY: Phone systems should be purchased by the sales department, not some bottom line, care less about the customer, number cruncher.


Caution: Many voice mail systems make it difficult to get back to the

operator or receptionist. Be sure your system allows the caller to just

touch zero and get back to a live human being.


Double Caution: Change your voice mail greeting when you are out of town, on vacation, or have limited access to checking your messages.


Triple Caution: Return your voice mail message promptly. Nine out of 10 voice mail complaints relate to “slow response.” Many companies now have voice mail tied to pagers that notify you the instant you get a call.

“Customer friendly” is the key to voicemail and reorders. Making the operation and capability of the phone equipment compatible with the need of the customer is paramount to the success of the system and value to your company. It will also keep your customer happy. Oh, that.


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