The Book Publicity Blog

News, Tips, Trends and Miscellany for Book Publicists

Why I still hate voicemail

On Friday, we received a message saying that due to a system crash, we would not be able to retrieve or leave voicemail messages for an hour.  Those of you who know me can guess I shed no tears.

Don’t get me wrong, now  — *phones* have their uses.  Sometimes it’s easier to discuss something over the phone rather than over email.  Sometimes it’s nicer to hear someone’s voice.  Sometimes you’ve tried email several times with no response.  All excellent reasons to pick up the phone (and as a book publicist who must pitch books and authors to the media, you have to be comfortable calling people you don’t know).

But I do have a bone to pick with voicemail.  For one thing, it takes between 7 and 13 steps to check voicemail (more if you have listen the message more than once).  Yes.  I’ve counted.  That doesn’t include the time it takes to scribble down a message that can’t be filed.  Basically, it’s easy for the caller to leave the message but hard for the recipient to check it … which sounds just a bit selfish, no?

I figure there are a handful of situations in which it is appropriate / necessary to leave  a voicemail message:

1) An emergency

2) When you’ve sent a couple emails with no response

3) When you know the person you’re calling and they don’t need to painstakingly transcribe your contact information from the message.  (I would still probably send a quick email with a “Call me when you get back” subject line, but I realize everyone operates differently.)

Do you agree (or not)?  In what other situations would you leave a voicemail?

September 21, 2009 - Posted by | Miscellaneous, Papyrus Files |

17 Comments »

  1. What you need is to find some genius teen to write an App for the iPhone that automatically transcribes all voicemail and forwards it as a written email to your email inbox.

    Comment by joelle | September 21, 2009 | Reply

    • There are other services that transcribe voicemail like Simulscribe and SpinVox. (I’m not even sure which ones are around any more — I think some may have been purchased by others.) The problem is that most companies won’t use these services, so while you can subscribe to the service on your cell phone, you’re still stuck listening to messages the old fashioned way at work (which is precisely when you need to be the most productive!)

      Comment by Yen | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hey Joelle, there is! Check out Google Voice. It’s not perfect but it does do that.

    Comment by Susan | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. I can’t agree more. Voicemail is fine if, like you said, someone knows *for certain* you already have their contact info. I have to emphasise the “for certain” part because I have had people from my clients’ companies call me up and figure that if I have X’s contact info, I have theirs too. But I don’t, so I have to call X and ask them.

    Google Voice is a great idea, but a lot of companies won’t be letting their employees use it for company voicemail.

    Comment by Kat | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  4. Voicemail wouldn’t bother me if people were capable of leaving clear, concise messages. High on my irk list is when *I* call and leave a message that says, “I just need to know if you want me to order the blue or the red shirt,” and the voicemail message I get back says, “Hi, I’m just returning your call,” without answering the darn question, forcing me to try to establish contact again.

    Comment by Diana | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. I agree. And too often it become a game of phone tag.

    Comment by Carole T. Meyers | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  6. I agree. Email is such an eminently civilized method of communication — it lets me check my messages and get back on MY schedule. And I can spend exactly as long on a communication as I think it is worth and no more. If I get dragged into an hourlong email conversation, it’s because *I* think it is interesting or important, not because someone else does.

    Comment by katrinastonoff | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  7. Voice mail can be good for a quick, simple question. One which can get lost in the daily deluge of e-mail messages. I also use it when I’ve asked, very clearly, for say three bits of information via e-mail, and only get one or two of the answers I need to complete whatever I’m trying to do.

    Comment by Kama | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  8. I like voice mail and email equally. What I dislike is people’s non-considerate use of voice mail. Here is how I do it:

    Slow down my speech; remember, my recipient is likely writing down the information so I make sure to speak slowly.
    I enunciate each word clearly, and if there is a “b” in a name or email address I make sure they do not hear “d.”.
    I provide all information requested and more if it helps.
    I leave my name and spell it at both the beginning of the message and at the end.
    I leave my company name (if relevant) at both the beginning of the message and at the end.
    I leave my email address at both the beginning of the message and at the end and spell it.
    I leave my phone number with area code and extension at the beginning of the message and at the end.

    Comment by Lauren | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  9. EDITED VERSION (or Where’s the dang edit button?):

    I like voice mail and email equally. What I dislike is people’s non-considerate use of voice mail. Here is how I do it:

    I slow down my speech, remembering that my recipient is likely writing down the information.
    I enunciate each word clearly, and if there is a “b” in a name or email address I make sure they do not hear “d.”
    I provide all information requested and more if it helps.
    I leave my name and spell it at both the beginning of the message and at the end.
    I leave my company name (if relevant) at both the beginning of the message and at the end.
    I leave my email address at both the beginning of the message and at the end and spell it.
    I leave my phone number with area code and extension at the beginning of the message and at the end.
    I let them know if there are not good times to call (when I know I will be in a meeting, etc.)

    Comment by Lauren | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  10. I have to disagree on one point. I use voice mail for follow ups when tone matters and there is not a lot of new information to convey.

    A one-line e-mail that basically says “DId you do that thing yet?” can be misconstrued as a reproach (and often feels like one when the recipient is sorting through 100+ unread e-mail messages.)

    However in a similar voice mail it is easier to communicate a relaxed and friendly tone.

    Yen, here is my question: If you call someone because something might be easier to discuss on the phone — and they don’t answer — do you leave a voice mail or do you hang up and send an e-mail instead? This happens frequently and neither is ideal.

    Comment by Erik Johnson | September 22, 2009 | Reply

    • I think with minimal effort, a tone can be struck on e-mail where those sorts of messages wouldn’t be seen as a reproach, accusatory, etc. For example:

      “Hi Bill. I haven’t received that proposal we discussed last week yet. Have you had a chance to put it together yet? Just want to make I haven’t missed anything in my e-mail or that it wasn’t filtered out by security protocals. I really looking forward to seeing your thoughts/ideas. Thanks!”

      And a meaningful subject line helps a bunch.

      Comment by Kama | September 23, 2009 | Reply

  11. For me, voicemail is great when I owe someone a call and I don’t particularly want to talk to them. That way, I’ve done my duty and I’m off the hook … so to speak.

    My biggest voicemail pet peeve? When someone leaves an indecipherable message. I wind up playing these back a dozen times trying to understand what was said. Insanely frustrating and a huge waste of my time. People, SPEAK SLOWLY AND CLEARLY.

    Comment by Ellen Meister | September 23, 2009 | Reply

    • I had a bad one today that I had to share…woman’s voice leaves a message saying (roughly) that “Paul approves the image use and go ahead and send Katie the kitchen, living room and bathroom.” That was the voice mail! She did not identify herself, who Paul was, who Katie was, what book, what specific images etc. If we ever did that to a media person, we would be black-balled for life. Turns out after I thought about it for 2 HOURS, it was an image request from 2 YEARS ago and I had to backtrack through email archives to make it happen. Just a well written email to me would have done the trick.

      Comment by Jessica Napp | September 23, 2009 | Reply

  12. I agree 100% on the issue of voicemail vs email. Personally, I’m just wayyyy too busy to be bothered with voicemail. It’s so much easier to just send a quick email or…dare I even say it…text!? Yes, text me to get the fastest response! I am a text master and will instantaneously send you back the information that you require. If I am forced to listen to a lengthy voicemail and obligated to call you back, I may not be too excited about it. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from you, it’s just that it takes me out of my flow. Plus, most of the people that prefer calling to emailing are not as good at getting to the point, which is why they call you-so they can keep you on the phone for an hour trying to explain something to you. Sorry, the truth hurts!

    Sure, sometimes it’s important to leave a voicemail, but I’m in general agreement with the guidelines left for that in this blog😉

    (I should qualify this with a voicemail I received recently about my book that was left by the publicist for a top celebrity, I was quite happy to receive that voicemail)

    Comment by Christopher Pinckley | October 9, 2009 | Reply

  13. Get off the fence and become a card-carrying, mug-gulping member of the IHateVoiceMail.Biz Association. You’ll have a blast making a statement. And, who knows, maybe businesses will start hiring enough people to answer the phone.

    Comment by jonlow | November 13, 2009 | Reply

  14. Good description. I like to see clearly Martha

    Comment by Clayton Vallo | February 18, 2012 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: