"Hi, this is Penelope. I am away from my desk right now. If you will leave me a message, I will call you back just as soon as I can."
So, you leave a message for Penelope and assume your phone is going to ring later that day. It doesn't. And it doesn't ring the next day, either.
You call again, get the same outgoing message, and leave the same request for a call, although probably not in the same chipper tone as last time. The day passes with no response, as does the next day.
You call again, but this time you navigate the telephone tree to a receptionist. Your conversation begins with, "I left a message on Penelope's voice mail last week and left a second message earlier this week, but she has not returned my calls."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Penelope has been on vacation and will not be back until Monday of next week," is the response. Wouldn't it have been nice to know that last week?
Use the tools you have
Technology has the capability to make our lives easier, such as being able to offer helpful information through our voice mail greetings. Yet when poorly used, it creates a frustrating experience for those who are getting old and inaccurate information.
If you have the ability to create an outgoing voicemail message, you more than likely also have the ability to create a "temporary greeting."
The temporary greeting allows you to record, "Hi, this is Penelope. I will be out of the office from June 7th through June 18th. If you need assistance, please call Jane Doe at 555-1234. If you would like to leave a message here, I will return your call on June 21st." Your system will even allow you to specify a date when this temporary greeting will expire and your normal greeting will magically return.
When all else fails, read the instructions
Didn’t know about the capability of a “temporary greeting”? Find the manual that came with the phone when the system was installed. It will explain helpful features about which you may not know, features that will make life easier for you and those who will be contacting you.
What about checking those messages from anywhere? Just because you are out of the office for a few days doesn’t mean the messages must pile up and wait your return. Travel always involves downtime. We wait to board the plane, wait for baggage, and wait for ground transportation. All of them offer the opportunity to get voicemail back to zero. The waiting time may offer time to not only retrieve those messages, but also to return the calls.
“But I don’t have time to read all that stuff,” some say. Using technology efficiently saves time. In this case, it would have saved time for the caller who left repeated messages. It would have saved time for the colleague who fields the calls when those messages were not returned. It would also save you time in not having to return to a voicemail teaming with messages when you return.
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, 2020, and 2021. 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.