In my day job helping accounting firms attract and retain talented partners and staff, I’m often asked what things separate good professionals from great professionals. Leaving technical and relationship building skills to one side, invariably it is the “small things” that really make a difference. One small thing – believe it or not – is voice mail.
Accountants, like other professions, need to communicate with their clients, prospects, government departments, suppliers and a host of others. Naturally enough, the telephone is a common method of communication. When you use the telephone you can’t avoid the inevitable … voice mail.
Voicemail – when used incorrectly is a real bugbear of mine. I’m the kind of person and work in the type of industry where people often phone me for advice. They’re either a friend of a friend or I know them and they phone me asking for help. Accountants are no different – be you an intern or a managing partner. People call you … you call people.
Please believe me when I say this – there is nothing more frustrating, upsetting & time wasting than when someone who I don’t know … or has been recommended to me by someone that I do know … has left a voice mail and have said their name really, really quickly. Also they haven’t given me the context of why they want to speak to me and the worst thing is, apart from their name being thrown out there like a hand grenade, is their mobile number being mumbled at the end. Instead, they have left me a voicemail that goes for 30 seconds or a minute – (in fact, the best one was I had someone who left me a voicemail for 2.5 minutes) and it is completely useless!
Now, you might think to yourself, ‘Oh, that’s not a long time, 2.5 minutes.’ Believe me, it is a very long time when you have to play it back four or five times because the person, right at the end, shot out their mobile number like a machine gun. They said, ‘Oh, James, please call me back on 042* *** **7.’ It actually sounded like that. All mobile phones (in Australia) start with the two digits ’04′ so I heard that correctly, and I think I heard the third one. But the rest of it, apart from the very last number, which was 7, was just a blur. And I had to play it back at least 3 or 4 times, and at the end, with the number that I had, was actually wrong. There’s nothing worse!
So, in terms of etiquette when it comes to voice mail, you need to do three quite simple things. Everyone you leave a voice mail for will thank you!
- State your name clearly at the start. ‘Good morning, this is Joe Smith,’ and you say it at a pace that is easily heard. If you’re phoning up someone that you’ve never met before, say your name slowly because they don’t know who you are.
- State the reason for your call. The reason might be our mutual friend John Brown had recommended me to you and I’d like to speak to you about getting advice. It could be something as simple as that. If you’re referred by someone, then ALWAYS mention the name of the person. It’s really important.
- As mentioned earlier, please, please, please quote your mobile phone number, not once, but twice and do it slowly. What I do, at the end of every voice mail, even with people that I know who may not have my phone number handy – (most have it in their phone, of course), but as a sign of respect to them, this is what I do. ‘John, thank you very much for your time. “Can you please phone me back on mobile phone number 0410 46 36 37. That phone number again, 0-4-1-0 4-6 3-6 3-7.” This guarantees that the person has not only heard the number, but it’s given them time to write down the number. When you’re wanting advice from someone, or to network or when you’re wanting to arrange a meeting you want them to phone you back don’t you? Otherwise why call?