What to say in a voicemail greeting

When people think ‘voicemail’, they think of the 80s and the 90s when the voicemail reigned supreme. Seinfeld references (“Believe it or not, George isn’t at home!”), pranks, movie quotes, favorite songs, celebrity impressions, birth announcements, relationship status announcements – voicemail greetings afforded people the opportunity to build their brand, showcase their personality and be goofy. 

But then came communication channels like IMs, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and people discovered the wonders of asynchronous communication… and now, voicemail greetings are mostly only used by businesses to engage with their customers.

That’s not to say that the purpose has changed; it’s just that it’s become more crucial than ever to get that greeting right. 

Thanks to technology, current-day consumers are used to fast responses, be it their personal lives or their business relationships. In fact, they’re so used to it that they demand it be the case.

It also doesn’t help that telephone is the favored choice of channel when it comes to urgent/burning issues. Even though there’s a range of customer service channels to choose from (email, chat, social media, etc.), customers tend to call in only when the issue is really urgent and they don’t want to wait for live chat responses. So, if your agents are really swamped or not at their desks or can’t attend to the customer’s issue for any reason, the voicemail greeting is the last chance you have to make your case as a brand that cares. 

If you don’t get it right and end up coming across as cold and dismissive or flippant, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and leaves you one-customer less.

So…no pressure. 

Luckily, we happen to be in a position where we can observe what works for our customers and what doesn’t and we’d love to share it with you so you can get started quickly and ace this voicemail game.

Voicemail greetings – Who and When

Typically, the business functions that typically need voicemail greetings are customer-facing functions like marketing, sales and customer service, and business functions i.e HR and admin. 

Different persona call each of these departments – candidates will call the reception to talk to a recruiter, vendors to talk to marketing, prospects to talk to sales, customers to talk to account managers and so on – so it makes sense to have a varied greeting for each of these personas. 

With candidates, you can use the voicemail greeting to showcase your employer brand aka an informal, “fun”, engaging tone. But customers calling in to talk to account managers about burning issues will not be very amused by the charming, rambly greeting that you use for candidates (“Give me the answer to life, the universe, and everything to jump up the queue”). Similarly, you might need information from your customers that you don’t necessarily need from your candidates (“Give us your app version”). 

In essence, all the departments that receive inbound calls need custom voicemail greetings, of their own, tone, and content tailored for their purposes.

When does it make sense to use a voicemail greeting?

Usually, businesses use voicemail greetings on these occasions:

  • As a welcome message
  • When the caller presses too many invalid options in the IVR
  • When all available agents are attending to other calls
  • When the team is offline and no one is available to take a call
  • When the team is on vacation and the caller should expect a delayed response
  • If the caller chooses ‘Leave a voicemail’ in the IVR

Cloud PBX solutions allow its users to customize call flows so they can use different voicemail greetings in different situations. We’d highly recommend you use a cloud PBX solution if you’re planning on running a call center because of the customization such software will afford.  

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Voicemail greeting must-haves

Here are some questions to consider while creating your voicemail greeting. The answers to these questions will help you create a script for your voicemail greetings.

    1. Who is this message’s intended listener? Is it a candidate, a prospect, a customer? There are two reasons the answer to this question matters: one, when you know who’s going to be the intended listener, you’ll be able to better envision the answers to the rest of the questions. Two, you’ll know what you require of them as well so that you can act and not waste time with a callback. For example, if the intended listener is a candidate, you can let the candidate know that they should mention their application number or the job posting they’ve applied for, if they want a status update.
    2. What frame of mind will they be in? This is really important because of tone matters. A lot. When a frustrated customer is listening to your voicemail greeting so that they can leave you a voicemail, they will not appreciate a tone-deaf burst of cheer or a promotional message. Based on the projected frame of mind, you can tailor the tone of the message to the situation and give a good caller experience.
    3. What do you want to convey? This is the crux of the message. What do you want them to know aka “We’re not in right now”, “We have a special offer for you”…Our two cents: make it crisp. Make it memorable.
    4. What kind of information do you need from them? This will be useful, especially, in customer service situations to identify the customer and proactively uncover as much information as possible, without having to ask said customer for it. You might already have notes from previous calls but better to be safe, than sorry. We’ve found explanations really do help – try adding a line like “We need this info – account ID – so we can provide you more personalized service”
    5. What is a realistic timeframe in which they can expect a call? And we mean, realistic. WOW, experiences are built by exceeding expectations so underpromise, overdeliver is the mantra of the day. Don’t promise end of day callbacks if you can’t deliver. Instead, go for something like, “If you’re listening to this on any day except Friday, our team will get back to you within 48 hours. If you’re listening to this on a Friday evening, our sincere apologies but we’ll be able to get back to you only on Monday.”
    6. What are their alternatives? This will be especially useful in your holiday voicemail greetings because you can use this message to direct customers to a staffed customer service channel where they can receive faster responses. You can also use this section to give them advice for frequently asked questions (“If you’re calling about our free T-Shirts, please leave us a voicemail with your address and size”).

When you have the answers down for each of these questions, the script should practically write itself. This might seem like more effort than you initially thought but trust us, they’re worth the effort. Voicemail greetings are oftentimes the last (or only) chance you have to make an impression so make them count.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, has a similarly methodical approach to voicemail greetings. 

“I am personally quite proud of the welcome voicemail that MyCorporation has… because I am the person who does the welcome message! The message is entirely in my voice. I open by saying ‘Thanks for holding! We’ll be right with you in a moment, and thank you for entrusting us with your filing needs.’ I utilize several calls to action statements during the message, such as discussing how we can help with trademark and copyright filings and prompting callers to ask us how we can help you out today. I find this is a much better approach than playing music in the background because it allows callers to easily recall what they are calling about and know that we are here to help. I also make it a point to say ‘We look forward to working with you.’ and ‘We’ll be right with you in a moment.’ to ensure that customers do not drop the call and let them know that we value their business.”

Voice and tone

Voicemail greetings are an extension of your phone support service so please take the time to set expectations in any manner you please. Whether it’s through a joke (“We’ll send you a gift basket if you can tell us which came first: the chicken or the egg”) or a fun fact about the team (“Sara likes reggae music!”) or even a serious fact about the team (“Our team has over 25+ years experience in customer service and have won 5 awards”), you can use the voicemail greeting to showcase your company’s brand, team’s personality or just do some good ol’ marketing.

However, please remember to account for the situation in which the person will listen to the message. For example, if they’re listening to the hangup voicemail message, after being on hold for a few minutes, that might not be the best time for humor. 

Moral of the story: tailor tone to situation. 

Now, let’s run through some scenarios and create some sample voicemail greetings for said scenarios.

#1: Customer calling your customer service number for support: Welcome

  1. Who will be listening to this message? Customer
  2. What frame of mind will they be in? Neutral/annoyed
  3. What do you want to convey? You want to welcome them and let them know how long they’ll have to wait to hear back. You can use the average hold time from your call center’s reports to supply this information.
  4. What kind of information do you need from them? From experience, I know that my bank’s Phone Banking support line asks for my customer ID when we connect so I keep it easily accessible when I give them a call. But it’d be useful if they let me know upfront so I can find it and be ready when I do get connected to an agent. 
  5. What is a realistic timeframe in which they can expect a call? Since this is a welcome message, the hope is they’ll stick around long enough to connect with you. You can let them know the timeframe in which you offer phone support so they can escalate through another channel, if necessary. 
  6. What are their alternatives? You can also let them know about alternate support channels (email/chat) if their query is not urgent.

Okay, let’s write that script now!

Hello! You’ve reached [YourCompany]’s support line. Thank you for calling! The average wait time is [time] so please be patient. Your [Account ID/Email address] will help us provide personalized service so keep it handy. You can also leave us a voicemail by pressing ‘0’, if your inquiry isn’t urgent. If you want to connect with someone immediately, please go to our website [URL] and chat with one of our live chat agents.

#2 Holiday greeting: no phone service is available

    1. Who will be listening to this message? Anyone who calls
    2. What frame of mind will they be in? Hopeful
    3. What do you want to convey? You’re not in because it’s the holidays. 
    4. What kind of information do you need from them? Their name and number you can call, when you get back in
    5. What is a realistic timeframe in which they can expect a call? No one will be calling them back for another couple of days.
    6. What are their alternatives? A skeleton team manages email and chat – reach out to them. 

It’s scripppttt time!

Happy holidays! You’ve reached the office of [Company] but unfortunately, the team’s currently out of office. We’ll be back on [date], full of good food and cheer, ready to rumble. If you want to connect with someone immediately, you can go to our website [URL] and chat with one of our live chat agents. You can also alternatively leave us your message, name and number and we’ll get back to you by [date].

#3 Asking the customer to either wait or leave after spending some time in queue

  1. Who will be listening to this message? Customer
  2. What frame of mind will they be in? Frustrated/annoyed
  3. What do you want to convey? They’ve been on hold for a while so you need to reiterate their options: they can either wait or they can leave a voicemail, if the inquiry isn’t urgent.
  4. What kind of information do you need from them? Their name, phone number, and the issue under concern. 
  5. What is a realistic timeframe in which they can expect a call? It’s best to be vague and give them a timeframe (“by end of day”) rather than an exact time (“You’ll receive a call by 2.34 pm”).
  6. What are their alternatives? You can also let them know about alternate support channels (email/chat) if their query is not urgent.

Hello, we apologize for the delay. Unfortunately, all our agents are on calls right now so you have to wait a bit more to connect with an agent. If you’d much rather not wait, you can leave us a message with your name, number and reason for calling and we’ll call you back by the end of the day. You can also go to our website [URL] and chat with one of our live chat agents. If you’re okay with waiting, thank you for your patience. 

#4 When the team is offline and no one is available to take a call: Reception

  • Who will be listening to this message? Anyone
  • What frame of mind will they be in? Your guess is as good as mine
  • What do you want to convey? This is outside your working hours so they’ll have to wait till you get back in for a response
  • What kind of information do you need from them? Their name, number and their reason for calling.
  • What is a realistic timeframe in which they can expect a call? The day your team is back in office.
  • What are their alternatives? Email.

Hi there! You’ve reached [Company]’s voicemail. We’re available by phone from [hour] to [hour], [day] to [day] so, unfortunately, the team is currently out of office. Please leave your name, number and message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, if your query is urgent, please send us an email at [email]. Cheers!

Things to keep in mind while creating a voicemail greeting

  1. Record the voicemail greeting with a human, if possible. Text-to-speech works in a pinch but unfortunately, it sounds super robotic and it might give the wrong impression (that you don’t particularly care about the caller experience) to callers. We’d even recommend checking out marketplaces like Fiverr to find a voice professional whose voice fits the tone you’re going for. 
  2. If you have a mic, use it to record your message. Mics have only one job and they do it extremely well (better than your jack-of-all-trades phone). A phone will do but why not try to make your message as clear, free of background noise, and audible as possible? If you can swing it, you should find a sound engineer to tack on a jingle to help set a pleasant mood.
  3. Make sure you’re alert and relaxed when you record a message. You don’t want to sound groggy or tense like you’re barking at the caller.
  4. Rehearse the script a couple of times, preferably with a colleague, before you hit ‘record’. 
  5. Remember to speak slowly – if you stumble, start over. 
  6. If you have an email address or URL in your script, spell it out. Don’t just say it, no matter how obvious.
  7. Record a couple of versions, don’t just stop with one. This way, you’ll have options to choose from, later, when you’re reviewing your work.
  8. Let it rest. If you record today, listen to the recordings tomorrow. If you’re anything like me, you’ll think more kindly of everything then.

Setting up voicemail greetings in Freshcaller

If you don’t have a Freshcaller account, you can sign up for one here: https://www.freshworks.com/freshcaller-cloud-pbx/

If you do have an account, you can log in here. Please note that you need to have Admin privileges to be able to modify call flows and add voicemail greetings.

Adding voicemail greetings

  • Go to Admin>Messages
  • Click on the ‘+’ icon next to the ‘New Message’ section
  • You have three options when adding a new message: you can record a message straight away, you can convert text to speech and you can upload audio

Creating a new voicemail message in Freshcaller

Adding voicemail greetings to a call flow

  • Go to Admin>Call Flows
  • Choose the call flow you’d like to modify
  • Add the message to the situation it’s meant for. For example, you can add a ‘Welcome message’ to play when a caller joins a queue

Modifying call queue to play a voicemail message

About Freshcaller

Freshcaller is a plug-n-play cloud phone system that helps augment customer engagement and collaboration within internal teams. Users can purchase local and international toll-free numbers, get real-time visibility into call queues and ongoing conversations, route calls to specific agent groups, set up custom business hours for each department, and more.

If you want to find out more about what we do, check out www.freshcaller.com.

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