A nice piece on Duct Tape Marketing called The 5 Deadly Sins of Voice Mail reminds us how not to abuse this medium. Although it’s primarily aimed at salespeople, there are a couple of good suggestions which apply to anyone when leaving a message. The first is to give the person concerned the chance to email you, if that’s an appropriate way of continuing the conversation. Don’t force them to phone you if you initiated this conversation. Or you could actually email them with what you have to say, and use the voice message to point out you’ve done just that, which is likely to make them pay more attention to the email when they get back.
From the perspective of the owner of the voicemail system, I also think it’s a good idea to suggest on your own recorded “away from my phone” message that emailing you might be a sensible next move.
The other thing I thoroughly approve of is getting into the habit of leaving a reason for your call. I simply don’t respond to people who call me and leave a message saying “er, call me”. I long ago got fed up with returning calls left on voicemail, only to find it was someone trying to sell something. I wouldn’t have bought from them on principle. But do you know what? If they’d left a message saying they’d called to sell me something, and told me why it was of value, I just might have returned their call.