Stay out of the Voice Mail Jail

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Introduction : Staying Out of Voice Mail Jail
There is a pendulum in play as companies move from people answering a phone, to having a queue of phone calls answered in a call center, to having everything addressed through voice prompts (press 1 or 2, etc.) or voice mail.
In this lesson, you’ll consider elements of voice mail etiquette and gain some experience in taking messages.
 
Staying Out of Voice Mail Jail
Almost everyone has experienced the frustration of being sent into the voice mail ether. Although is often perceived as a runaround, voice mail can actually be a helpful way to share messages or connect people. Applying proper voice mail techniques ensures customer satisfaction.
Some people prefer listening to a voice mail rather than reading a note or e-mail because it allows them to hear nuances in the caller’s voice that they obviously could not hear in a written message. Are they agitated or anxious? Does this person need to be called back immediately, or can the return call wait until the next day?
Just like writing notes, voice mail has certain etiquette attached to it that can help you deliver the message more effectively. Etiquette is not something we may think of automatically; sometimes we need to work on it.
 
Here are some tips for leaving effective messages:

  • Each message needs to be short and complete. Don’t leave out important matters, and don’t say, “Call me for details.” If you want someone to respond to your message, make it complete.
  • Make sure the message gets to the correct person.
  • Provide people with a deadline for when you will follow up if that is appropriate.
  • Don’t be cryptic with abbreviations or jargon unless you know the person has the necessary background.
  • Leave your telephone number twice within the message, just in case the person you are calling is scrambling around to find a pen or writes much slower than you talk.

 
Closing Down the Voice
If you work on the telephone, your voice is doing a lot of the work. Do you think about your voice and how it can be best prepared and looked after, so that you present yourself in the best way possible?
In this session, a few vocal exercises will help you to develop and strengthen your tools to help you along.
 
Hyoid Limbering
The hyoid muscles connect the lower part of your jaw to the hyoid bone, which is at the top of your voice box, or larynx. These muscles help to control the movement of your vocal folds, and you use them all day for swallowing, chewing, and speaking. Like any muscles, they can become tense or fatigued, making your voice sound tight or higher pitched than you expect. But like any muscles, they also respond to stretching and conditioning. Do the following exercise for about one minute, three to five times a day.

  • Close your mouth; keep your jaw relaxed.
  • Lower your chin toward your chest.
  • Use your fingertips to gently push the hyoid muscles upward. Do not rub them or massage them from side to side.
  • Stretch the area from directly under your chin to the end of your jawbone close to your ear.

 
Hum
Humming will help you strengthen and control your vocal folds. You’ll need about five minutes of uninterrupted time to complete this exercise. Make sure that you follow the steps in order, and repeat them three times throughout the day.

  • Inhale, taking in your usual amount of air.
  • Exhale slowly, saying the word “hum” at your normal volume.
  • Exhale evenly to maintain the volume and quality of the hum.
  • Take note of any extra notes with your hum – such as a flutter sound – if you relax the tension or lose control as you exhale.
  • Repeat the humming and be sure to keep the extra notes out of your voice.

 
Sighing
This exercise will help you both relax and strengthen your voice. Follow the steps in the order given to reach maximum benefit. Allow yourself about five minutes of uninterrupted time, and repeat the steps three times throughout the day.

  • Inhale, taking in your usual amount of air.
  • Exhale slowly, sighing softly with the sound of the word “sigh” stretched out as “s-i-g-h.”
  • Keep the volume level the same as you exhale, and then make it softer and softer as you exhale.

 
The Diaphragmatic Breath
This exercise is crucial for increasing control of your vocal strength and quality. This is a type of breathing that is mastered by singers, musicians, dancers, and actors, and it is equally useful for speaking on the telephone. Set aside five minutes for this exercise, three times a day.

  • Stand in front of a mirror or a partner so that you can see or get feedback on what you are doing.
  • Place your fingers lightly on your diaphragm, just beneath your rib cage above your waistband. Feel the movement as you breathe.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose or mouth, directing the air to your diaphragm. You will feel the diaphragm move forward; your shoulders and upper chest should not move at all.
  • Hold the inhaled air for three seconds.
  • Exhale slowly, counting to twenty by saying “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand…” until you reach “twenty one thousand.”
  • Stop when your exhale becomes a strain.
  • If this is the first time you’ve tried this exercise, you probably won’t reach twenty in one breath. Repeat the exercise three times a day until you can reach twenty comfortably.