Are you guilty of terrible voicemail etiquette? Chances are high the answer is yes. Customer service expert Nancy Friedman (The Telephone Doctor), who provided the inspiration for these telephone sins, has made a practice of betting audiences the cash in their wallet that they have one or more of these offending phrases on their cell or office phone at that moment.

According to Friedman, she’s never yet had to pay.

When was the last time you listened to your own voicemail message? It’s probably been a while. So now’s a good time to check it to be sure you’re not guilty of the following bad choices. If you are, set a resolution to change your recording this minute to avoid these common mistakes:

1. “Hi, I’m not here right now.”Customer Service Training

Well, that’s obvious. This a boring and useless statement. Instead, why not 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.” Also let them know if you do or don’t check messages. Tell them when you’ll be back.

2. “Your call is very important to me.”

Seriously? This phrase is an all-time waste of space, Friedman says. The caller, of course, is thinking, “Well, if I’m so darned important, where are you?” Maybe the call isn’t so valuable to you after all. So lose this statement.

3. “I’m sorry I missed your call.”

How dull. Of course you’re sorry you missed the call. (Although, in truth, there may be some calls you’ve purposely screened and are not a bit sorry you’ve missed.) It’s okay to leave this phrase out. The sentiment is a kind of a given. Use the time for more valuable information such as where you are and when you’ll return, who they can call, or how they can reach you best for more information.

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

Everybody says it. But it’s not interesting and is definitely not fun. And most assuredly your “as soon as possible” and the caller’s “as soon as possible” will not be the same. In truth, most people don’t return calls in a timely fashion (and perhaps not at all). If you’re telling your callers you’ll call them back, be sure you do. If you don’t want to return the call, have someone from your organization return it upon your behalf or let the caller know in your message to reach out via text or email instead. Promising to return a call and not doing so is like using your turn signal on the freeway and moving the other direction instead. It’s a breach of promise, and it’s downright rude. Don’t be guilty of this.

5. You provide no alternative route.

Offer the caller another name or extension. Or invite them to text you or tell them how to reach you on email. The main point here is to offer a reasonable alternative when you’re not available, and–even better–to use the time and space to say something memorable or interesting to your caller instead.

And a note to consider when you listen to the voicemail of somebody else–I suggest you always listen, all the way through. It may give you helpful clues of the kind I’ve described about somebody else’s preferences and schedule–are they out of town? Re-assigned? Do they mention any other, better ways for you to reach them? These are valuable clues for you as a voicemail recipient as well (regardless of how well they abide by these voicemail productivity rules).

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.