Business phone systems contain many voice recordings. Recall the last time someone put you on hold: what did you hear? Likely, you had to listen to an advertisement, notification, or song. Voicemail boxes and phone menus act similarly. They instruct us to press a button or leave a message.
The purpose of a voice response menu, or auto-attendant, is to welcome and direct callers. A well-scripted phone greeting should connect callers with information and people. It should do so quickly, logically, and professionally.
As prospects and customers, we form impressions off menu greetings. We judge based on vocal clarity, intonation, and personality—not to mention the audio quality. Therefore, when implementing your own voice message greeting, consider such factors carefully.
This article investigates common phone message mistakes and proposes ways to fix them. At any point, scroll to the end for a few sample scripts. Refrain from adopting the examples verbatim; customize them to fit your business.
Voice Messages That Cause Call Abandonment and Frustration
Once we dial a number, we expect an answer within one minute or less. For this reason, voice greetings need to be succinct. The longer it takes to choose an option, the less patient we will be later on. In fact, a recent survey found that length is the largest cause of caller dissatisfaction.
When scripting your voice message, avoid the following blunders when condensing its information.
- Do not appear larger by layering your phone menu with tiers.
- Do not trap callers or lead them into dead ends.
- Do not expect callers to move linearly. Many travel backwards and jump departments.
- Do not play unnecessary promotional messages.
- Do not leave your phone greeting for more than 6 months without updating its information.
- Do not record your voice messages using the onboard microphone on your computer or phone. Get a professional recording.
Some of the above warnings may seem obvious, but businesses do commit these errors. If you spot these problems in your own script, glance at our voice menu recommendations below.
Voice Greeting Best Practices and Samples
The balance between succinctness and effectiveness is delicate. Some businesses cut out too much information while others leave in extraneous details. Instructions on how to navigate the phone system are paramount. Everything else is up to debate.
Business details like hours of operation and location belong in a subdirectory. Where that subdirectory lies should depend on the necessity of the information.
For example, a brick-and-mortar shop relies on people coming into the store. Therefore, customers need access to directions and hours. The manufacturer of products in the store, however, doesn’t need to volunteer such information. In fact, hours of operation might not even apply to every department (i.e. support versus general inquiries). For this reason, it makes sense to relocate this information to places it matters.
Both tips above relate to priorities. The last thing you want to do is bury menu options. This happens when more than seven options exist or the most popular items come last. Labelling unconventionally may also create barriers and bury phone options (i.e. 0 always means reception). By making callers think too hard about each option, you risk them missing subsequent items.
Conversely, you should anticipate callers wanting to skip portions of the menu. Never force callers to listen to every option: always provide an out. The term “zeroing-out” refers to the act of breaking flow. Although it traditionally applies to calling the operator, it now includes direct extension dialing.
Where in your menu callers “zero-out” should be strategic. As aforementioned, you never want a caller to back him or herself into a corner. The loss of direction will lead to call abandonment. One way to avoid this is by reminding callers of their selection. A quick “you’ve reach the ___ department” orients them enough to proceed.
Be sure to update your voice messages regularly. Should you use playback for pitching or promoting services, this is especially true. Repeat callers need fresh information. Messages should also reflect current happenings in the business.
Regarding call quality, all efforts to construct a professional voice menu are futile without a strong speaker. A greeter who mumbles, mispronounces, or speaks too quickly will create a bad experience. The speaker must be rehearsed, clear, and charismatic. At no point should you use voice generation software.
Two Sample Voice Message Greetings for Business
- “Thanks for calling (Your Business Name). You may dial the extension of the person you wish to reach at any time. Otherwise, select 1 for (Department), 2 for (Department), or 3 for (Department). To speak with a receptionist, stay on the line or press 0. Our next available agent will happily take your call."
- “Good (Morning / Afternoon / Evening), you’ve reach (Your Business Name). To learn about (topic), press 1. For information on (topic), press 2. At any time, press 0 for reception or 9 to leave a voicemail. Swing by our website at (Your Business Domain) for other great resources and support. “
Notice the different approaches in the examples. The first prioritizes individual extensions, then itemizes the different departments and directories. The second takes a broader approach, connecting callers with information rather than people. Knowing your audience will help to identify which method best suits your callers.
Note that when devising your script, you should omit awkward phrases. From the first greeting sample, "Our next available agent will happily take your call" previously read, "Our next available representative will be happy to take your call." Besides being shorter, it feels less clunky.
Something that looks good on paper may not sound so enticing aloud. Catch cadence problems by having multiple people read it under unique circumstances. If everyone reads the script without faults or fumbles, it’s easy to follow.
Consider recording seasonal phone greetings, too. For the holiday season especially, add some creativity to your phone greeting. Personality can go a long way so long as it does not delay customers.