By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor® 

Voice mail (business or cell) remains a large frustration in this busy business world. And it’s not just voice mail. The automated attendant is also on the list. In an effort to help reduce voice mail frustration, here are the five most frustrating phrases that your callers don’t want to hear. I’ll discuss the auto attendant in another blog. Here are the big 5 Most Frustrating Voice Mail phrases. 

1. I’m not at my desk right now 

DUH? That’s a hot lot of news. What a boring, semi useless statement. Live a little. Let your callers know where you ARE – not where you’re not. Tell them, “I AM in the office all this week” OR “I’m in a sales meeting till 3 pm.” Let them know if you do or don’t check messages. Let them know when you will be back. 

2. Your call is very important to me 

OMG. Really? A big time waster. The caller is thinking, “Well, if I’m so darn important, where the heck are you?” And then again, think about it. Maybe the call isn’t so important to you. You just don’t need this phrase. Semi useless 

3. I’m sorry I missed your call 

How dull. Of course you are. (Although, there are probably some that you’re not sorry to have missed.) OK to leave this phrase out! It’s a given. Use the time and space for something more valuable. Like where you are and when you will return!! Or, who they can call for more information. 

4. I’ll call you back as soon as possible 

Not interesting and not fun. Mainly because your as soon as possible and my as soon as possible may not and probably are not the same. And based on our Telephone Doctor surveys, probably not true. The truth is most people aren’t returning their phone calls in a timely fashion. (if at all) If you’re telling your callers you’ll call them back, make sure you do. If you think you may not return the call…then try this: “Go ahead and leave your phone number and I’ll DECIDE if I’ll call you back or not.” (Just kidding!) Unreturned phone calls rank high on the frustration list. “As soon as possible” is not an effective phrase. All you need is to say, “I will call you back.” (Then do it! Or have it returned on your behalf.) Not returning a phone call is like not using your turn signal. Just rude. 

5. No escape 

Remember to tell callers to hit ZERO for the operator (or whoever) if they need more information. Or better yet, give them another name and extension. Although for the most part, that voice mail may come on also. (Then you’re into what is called Voice Mail Jail!!!) Main point here is to offer an alternative if you’re not there. Plus, you’ve bought back some time to say something more interesting or helpful to the caller.

# # # 

Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service training company in St. Louis, Missouri. A keynote speaker at association, franchise and corporate meetings, Nancy is the author of eight books on Sales and Customer Service, and can be reached at 314 291 1012. or at


Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.