No One Cares About Your Office Hours (or: What Your Voicemail Greeting Should Say)

I recently called someone and reached their voicemail. As part of their greeting they let me know what their office’s normal hours were. “I don’t care about your hours,” I thought to myself, “I want to know when you’ll get back to me!”

The truth is that, when someone calls and reaches your voicemail, they want to know two things:

  1. Did they reach the right voicemail?
  2. When will you be available to get back to them?

I have found that the most effective way to do this is to change my voicemail introduction every week, first thing on Monday. In the intro I state who I am and what days that week I will be in and out of the office. This accomplishes both the tasks set forth above.

As an example, here’s the script of my voicemail introduction a few weeks ago:

Hi, you’ve reached Jonathan Sullivan, director of catechetical services for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. This is the week of May 10th. I’ll be in the office on Monday and Tuesday. I will be out of the office Wednesday and Thursday attending a curia workshop. Our offices are closed on Fridays. Please leave your name, phone number, and a brief message and I’ll return your call as soon as I can. Thank you, and God bless.

Using this system it is clear that, if someone leaves a voicemail on Wednesday, they probably shouldn’t expect a response until the following Monday. On the other hand, if all I had was an evergreen message stating the curia office hours, they might expect a return call much sooner. (And grower frustrated while they wait until Monday!)

This goes back to a fundamental principal about leadership: anticipating what people need, not what we think they need. The more we practice this principal, the more effective we can be in our ministry.