4

Often clients will call my phone continuously until I answer. Sometimes they have already left a voicemail only moments earlier, sometimes they do not leave one at all.

I make a concerted effort to return calls during the same business day depending on when they come in. It may be 24-48 hours, but for the most part, during the work week, it is during the same business day.

Many social agencies in town have VM instructing clients not to call more than one time and not to leave more than one message as do I. Recently, a caller left me a nasty message about how rude my VM message is.

I searched the internet for a better option than saying "please do not continue to call" but have not had any luck finding an answer.

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    What does your current VM message say? Have you received complaints other than this one instance? – MikeQ Mar 5 '18 at 18:11
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    Please refrain from answering in the comments. – Richard U Mar 5 '18 at 18:48
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    Could you confirm what you mean by "clients" here? Are these people who you are currently engaged with and are actually paying you money? – Philip Kendall Mar 5 '18 at 19:12
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    Agreed with Philip - is a client a customer? Are they paying you money? You imply you're a social agency - are you perhaps providing a social service, paid for by some trust/govt body, for which you provide services to "clients"? – bharal Mar 5 '18 at 19:21
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    Politest resolution is spend the time you're utilising on the internet to find a phone message and just answer your phone instead. – Kilisi Mar 5 '18 at 19:55
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Your clients are frustrated because they cannot get through, this is a failure in procedures. No message will alleviate this. There are plentiful mainstream options such as redirecting the calls through a PABX to someone who will actually answer the phone.

Have company protocols in place where someone else fields the calls in the first instance and then passes them on etc,. Most companies work on their side of the problem rather than expecting the client to. It's just good business and professionalism.

If it's just you then it is even more important to be contactable, my phone message just says I'm unavailable and gives my cell phone number if it's an emergency.

  • I think every service comes with a certain level of expectation. There are very few companies where there is someone who will answer whenever someone calls. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and let trouble clients be someone else's problem. – user8365 Mar 7 '18 at 17:53
  • @JeffO Unsure what you mean, every company I have ever worked for in many industries had someone who would answer the phone. This is not a trouble client, it's a trouble service provider. If I was the client I'd be thinking about cutting my losses and using a different service provider. Am I missing something? – Kilisi Mar 8 '18 at 11:32
  • you've never called a company and left a voice mail message without ever speaking to a person? – user8365 Mar 8 '18 at 19:00
  • @JeffO yes I have, after hours or holidays etc,. Otherwise in normal circumstances, no, I haven't. I can see how it can happen, and once in a long while wouldn't bother me, but if was the usual practice for a service provider, I'd replace them.. – Kilisi Mar 8 '18 at 22:08
5

Just answer the phone.

You are having a XY Problem here. Do not use phone like email. It is a synchronous mode of communication. People use the phone when they want an immediate reply, or at least immediate feedback on their issue or question.

Returning the call "within the business day" is using phone in asynchronous mode, which is not how most people expect it to be used. No wonder people get frustrated and keep calling back until you respond.

It is, of course, unreasonable to respond to phone when you are out of office. That is when voicemail comes into the picture. Voicemail is not meant to be a "do not disturb", although you could use it that way. Do that too often (or, what seems to be all the time, in your case), and you will end up with a long list of dissatisfied clients.

3

The content of your message is not objectively rude, though you might want to check the tone of your voice to make sure it's neutral and doesn't come across as belligerent. You can respond to that client with:

I'm sorry if I came across as rude, but unfortunately, I have many clients who rudely call me repeatedly while I'm dealing with important matters. Leaving multiple messages won't help me get to your request any quicker. It will, however, force me to spend more time listening to voice messages that I could spend servicing your request.

If you answer the second or third time a client calls, you're basically giving them positive reinforcement for calling multiple times. Therefore, if your job allows it, you might also consider turning your phone off at times when you're too busy to receive calls. This way, no matter how many times they call, they'll get directed back to the same message.

  • I believe OP's question is about a polite message, but not what to do with that one angry client. – Sandra K Mar 5 '18 at 19:44
  • @SandraK I believe I answered that question in the first sentence. It's pretty common for SE responses to go beyond answering the direct question and address the general problem that led to the need for the question. – AffableAmbler Mar 5 '18 at 19:51
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    I agree, can your edit your answer and focus more on the OP's question and not on the angry client or OP's phoneCalls process? – Sandra K Mar 5 '18 at 19:59
1

You cannot "force" clients by restricting them to call only once, but you can only hint it for them; And they will definitely love any humor into it. You could use:

"Hi! Laurie's answering machine is broken. This is his refrigerator. Please speak very slowly, and I'll stick your message on my front with one of his magnets. We are limited on magnets so please use only one magnet per issue."

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    Genius. Simple and effective. The principle... delete the comment if you haven't already. – Mister Positive Mar 5 '18 at 19:48
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    While an entertaining voicemail, this might be seen as a bit too informal for business purposes (even on a personal phone). – Dukeling Mar 5 '18 at 19:59
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    While humorous and entertaining, I fail to see how this addresses the OP's concern about her clients feeling shorted, while I suppose silly is better than rude, wouldn't it still come across as unprofessional? – Richard U Mar 5 '18 at 20:06
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    Why should the client care if you run out of "magnets"? It is your problem, not their problem. They are looking for a solution to their problem, not figuring out if they are talking to a refrigerator or a washing machine. – Masked Man Mar 6 '18 at 5:04
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    @RichardU If the client is locked out of his house in freezing cold (or extreme heat) because the so-called smart lock isn't letting him in, I am sure he wouldn't find it "humourous" or "entertaining" to know that he is talking to a refrigerator or that there is a shortage of magnets somewhere. – Masked Man Mar 6 '18 at 5:19
1

I suggest using the message to give your policies on returning calls. For example: "Calls during regular business hours will usually be returned on the same day. All calls will be returned within 48 hours."

Also, if you are out of the office or tied up in an all-day meeting change the message: "All calls received today, Monday, will be returned tomorrow."

The repeated calls result when people are worried that an earlier call got lost or is being ignored. If you set accurate expectations that is less likely to happen.

0

One solution is to let your clients call as many times as they want.

Instead, you could use Google Voice. In the US, it's free.

Or you could use Visual Voice Mail that some cell phone carriers provide for a monthly extra fee. That being said, since I am only familiar with Google Voice and not the other custom Visual Voice Mail products offered by cell phone carriers, I can only describe Google Voice's offering.

  1. Google Voice lets you visually see your voice mails. So you can easily see if you have multiple voice mails from the same person, without forcing you to check the messages in the order they were received.

  2. It shows you an automated transcript of the voice mails, which it can also forward immediately to you by email or sms.

  3. It allows you to forward calls based on any type of rule you like. It can also forward calls to multiple phones/computers at the very same time.

  4. It lets you screen messages. For instance, it lets you listen to messages as they're being left in real-time and it lets you pick up the call before the person hangs up. But it also has other types of screening capabilities.

  5. It makes it easier to archive voice messages, if you need to keep some for legal reasons.

Drawbacks

  1. Unless you pay, Google owns the phone number it gives you and unless you're very lucky, the area code of the free phone number they give you may not be familiar to your clients.

  2. Your clients will have to call a phone number different from the one they receive a phone call from (unless you pay, or unless you go through Google Voice to return a call which takes a few extra seconds).

  3. The last time I checked. Google Voice had great integration with Sprint (if you had a Sprint postpaid account). For other cell phone providers, advanced integration with Google Voice is a little bit more complicated.

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