Love it or hate it, voicemail is part of our work culture. It’s been with us for more than 30 years. Still, far too many people haven't figured it out. If you use voicemail at work, see how many of these techniques you have mastered:

1. Change your greeting. When people get your voicemail, do they hear a pleasant voice that says, "Hi, this is Jim ..."? Or, do they hear a computer-generated voice that says, "The person at extension [pause] 123 [pause] is unavailable?” If you're not sure, call your own number and see what other people experience.

2. Record a temporary greeting. Callers aren't mind readers. How will they know we're gone for a week? A good phone system allows the user to record a "temporary greeting." It would start something like this: "Hi, this is Mary. I'll be out of the office until July 16th and will be returning calls at that time. If you need assistance before then ..." When you set it up, the system asks for an expiry date. On the correct date, the regular greeting kicks in.

3. Check voicemail remotely. Just because someone is out of the office for a week doesn't mean voicemail has to accumulate. Find the manual to learn how to check your messages from anywhere.

4. Forward calls. Going to be out of the office and want all your calls to ring through to your mobile phone? Do you and a colleague need to answer each other’s calls when one of you leaves the office? It's easy to make it happen.

5. Use programmable keys. Does the keypad include a key or two the user can program to store a string of numbers? If your system required you to enter a whole string of numbers to access messages, program that key to produce the whole series. Now, you’re into your messages with a single stroke.

If you're in charge of keeping the organization's phone system operating efficiently, can you perform these functions?

1. Update the telephone tree. The telephone tree tells you to "press 3 for Joe Smith." The only problem is Joe retired a year ago. What’s your procedure for keeping the tree up to date as employees change? If you're not sure if yours is working correctly, check it. Pick a time after hours and try each option on the tree one at a time. You may be surprised.

2. Change the greeting for someone who has left the organization. Sometimes a position is eliminated and nobody assumes that extension. What happens when an unsuspecting caller dials that extension directly? Do they hear the greeting for the person who is no longer there? How many messages are piling up in unmonitored mailboxes at your organization?

3. Teach others how to use the voicemail as a time-saver. Can you put your hands on a copy of the user guide and make it available to everyone?

Reading the instructions does wonders.

What does ‘as soon as possible’ mean?

How many voicemail greetings do you hear that promise to return your call "as soon as possible"? So exactly what is "as soon as possible"? Does that mean five minutes from now when you get back from the bathroom or five weeks from now when you get back from an extended vacation?

I have an entire post that addresses that subject. Come over to "Voicemail: How to

Make Your Outgoing Message Helpful" found at https://bit.ly/frankbuck116.

Frank Buck is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. "Global Gurus Top 30" named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: FrankBuck.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.

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