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Let me ask, do you know what to do once the “beep” on the phone message sounds? I’m willing to bet everyone who reads this and most everyone over the age of two can answer that question. So why, in about 8 out of 10 phone systems and cell phones, is there the “extra” recorded message AFTER the personal message that tells you, “Record your message at the tone. When you are finished hang up or press pound for more options.”

Are you with me on this?! Does someone really need to tell you to ‘hang up?’ Is there an epidemic of people who are hanging on after leaving their message, waiting for someone else to come on the line and chat them up for a while? Is this phone-fixated world so lost that we need the automated voice to guide us through this highly complicated process!? Give me a break!

Okay, I’ll calm down now. As you can tell I get worked up over this kind of thing, so I did a little research with some of the phone services and companies. Turns out, it is harder to escape the recorded message than you might think. Some phones make it impossible to turn off the ‘automated greeting’ but here’s what you should do:

Go to Greeting Options: Your phone or phone service should have a ‘Greeting Options’ section where you can find out if you have the option to turn off the automated greeting. Any office system worth its salt should provide you with that option, but not all cell phones will let you.

Check in regularly: Have you ever called somewhere and gotten the impression the last person to record a message was the receptionist from five years ago — and you have a pretty good idea of why that person isn’t working there anymore! Don’t be that person or that business. Check your system, get the full customer experience and find a way to warm up a personalized message.

Personalize, personalize, and personalize: How many mid-level executives have their assistant or someone else record their message for them? Are you really that important? Come on. If you are in the customer service business — and we all are — record your own message and let people know you have a system to get back to them. The Chairman of one of my client companies not only returns his calls, but actually answers his own phone when he’s in the office! What a concept. (If you call my office and I don’t pick up you’ll be saved the time-wasting automated stuff and instead get a message from me with today’s date and assurance I make a point of promptly returning each call. I also work in my kid’s birthday announcements, to their great amusement/embarrassment!)

As any successful person knows, it’s how you do the little things which leads to the biggest success. At the tone, please go check your phone! BEEP.

New ways to connect with Cary: over the coming months we’ll be offering new convenient ways to connect with Cary — CDs, webcasts, telephone coaching (!) and other easy options to improve your communication skills. Watch for more and start planning your 2011 budget!