Do you leave good phone messages?

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

A message on my answering machine this morning reminded me once again of the agent talking on a phoneimportance of leaving clear messages.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I could not return a call, simply because the person either mumbled, spoke so softly that I couldn’t hear what they said, or talked so fast that it was all a jumble.

Sometimes it’s the person’s name that doesn’t come through. Often it’s the phone number.

This morning it was both. Although she repeated the phone number twice, I still got it wrong. When I called, I reached a taxi service – and they hadn’t left me any messages.

Luckily, I hadn’t erased the message, so went back and listened again. The second time I decided that what sounded like 2133 must really be 2123. The second time I also thought I caught the name – Dodie.

On calling that number I learned that it wasn’t Dodie, it was Jodie. She wasn’t there, so I left a message.

While most phones today do record incoming numbers, mine only does so when it feels in the mood. Today it recorded Jodie’s number – but it was vastly different from the number she asked me to call.

I believe I’ve seen complaints about this here on Active Rain before – when an agent calls another agent from a home phone or office phone and asks for a return call on a cell phone.

The other problem with phone messages – unless the caller states the reason for the call, you’re left wondering whether you should return the call or not. It could be someone trying to sell you insurance on your refrigerator or a trip to the Bahamas.

The bottom line – if you want people to return your phone calls:

  • Speak clearly! Mumbling just doesn’t work. So enunciate clearly.

  • Speak up! You don’t have to shout, but use enough volume to be heard in a playback. Soft-spoken women are the worst offenders with this one.

  • Slow down! I’ve found the worst offenders in speaking way too fast are people with strong accents. It’s difficult enough to understand them, but when they speed it up I have to give up. I just can’t hear that fast. And it does sound a bit strange to return a call saying “I’m returning a call from this number, but I don’t know who called me or why they called.”

    Everyone should slow way down when leaving a call back number. Take the time to enunciate each number separately and clearly, so they don’t get run together and make 2123 sound like 2133.

  • State your purpose in calling. It’s the polite thing to do.


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /


Comments (30)

John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Marte, what a much needed focus on leaving phone messages.

It is so frustrating to see the number they call from only to have them give another number they want you to return their call to. This often means finding something to write on and then go back and listen to the whole message again.

Yes, speak clearly!!!

Jul 07, 2017 04:27 AM
Marte Cliff

Oh yes John Wiley - and how about when the name is garbled and the phone number turns out to be one where you need to know who called. I feel silly saying that someone called me, but I have no idea who, because I couldn't understand their name.

Jul 07, 2017 10:14 AM
Thomas McCombs
Century 21 HomeStar - Akron, OH

Callers leaving messages are often making many calls and are often in a hurry so they want to get through it and move on to something else. Many names are hard to hear even under the best of conditions.

Jul 07, 2017 04:33 AM
Marte Cliff

I agree, Thomas McCombs - some names are tongue-twisters.

Jul 07, 2017 10:15 AM
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Good morning Marte. This is something I know I need some work with.  Great post, thanks.

Jul 07, 2017 05:11 AM
Marte Cliff

Good, Gabe Sanders, then I'm glad I reminded you! 

Jul 07, 2017 10:15 AM
Anne Corbin

You hit the nail on the head for sure!!!!

Jul 07, 2017 06:22 AM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Marte. This is excellent and while I laughed at some of this it really isn't funny.

Jul 07, 2017 07:36 AM
Marte Cliff

Right, Sheila Anderson - it isn't at all funny when you're spending 20 minutes trying to figure out a name and number.

Jul 07, 2017 10:16 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Marte

Once again you offer some excellent advice. I get messages that fit your description as bad examples fairly often. And how about when there is no name and they just ask you to call without leaving a number. Yes, the number shows on my iPhone but what if there are calling from an extension and I only get the main office number, and don't know who called?

Have a wonderful weekend!


Jul 07, 2017 07:49 AM
Marte Cliff

I've had that happen, Jeff Dowler. When it does, the time you spent returning the call was time wasted.

Jul 07, 2017 10:17 AM
Susan Haughton
Long and Foster REALTORS (703) 470-4545 - Alexandria, VA
Susan & Mindy Team...Honesty. Integrity. Results.

Yes, yes, yes to all of this!  And I am one of the ones who has complained about people who call from one number (landline) and then ask me to call back on their other number (cell phone).  If I'm driving, that is just not happening, so for everyone's sake, please call from the number you want me to call you on.

And yes, please leave complete messages AND repeat your name and number at the end of the message, so I don't have to go back through to listen again if I couldn't quite capture it the first time you said it.

It's so simple - until it isn't. 

Jul 07, 2017 10:16 AM
Marte Cliff

Yes Susan Haughton - it should be simple!

People just don't stop to think.

Jul 07, 2017 10:43 AM
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Marte - Unintelligible phone messages are a constant problem, and we can't always spend the time playing detective. Good advice.

Jul 07, 2017 03:04 PM
Marte Cliff

Right Dick Greenberg - and it does take time!

Jul 07, 2017 03:51 PM
Shahar Hillel
Encino, CA
Mortgage Consultant, Loan Officer.


Important points.

Clear and precise voice massages are essential.

Jul 07, 2017 06:12 PM
Marte Cliff

Shahar Hillel - they certainly are if you expect a return call.

Jul 10, 2017 01:54 PM
Dr. Karen Lewis, Broker 954-2489149
K1 Realty Group - Davie, FL
No Compromise When it Comes to Our Clients!

Yes happens all the time. I also repeat my number in the beginning and end that way if they didn't get it 1st go round they don't have to listen to entire message again.

Jul 07, 2017 07:12 PM
Marte Cliff

Karen Jones Lewis, MBA, Realtor That's a kind and thoughtful practice. Good for you.

Jul 10, 2017 01:55 PM
Theresa Akin

When I leave a message, I try to clearly state my name with spelling and clearly leaving the phone number with clear "0" aka pronounced "zero" instead of oo. If I can I also state I will leave a text or send an email. Also regarding their listing. AND I try not to leave a "fast zippidee doodah" message. Stop and be clear. Surprising how much time it saves.

Jul 10, 2017 01:03 PM
Marte Cliff

Theresa Akin - That's a funny thing about slowing down and doing something correctly. It often saves time.

Jul 10, 2017 01:55 PM
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Good morning, Marte Cliff there's nothing worse than someone leaving a name and number and you need to listen to that message 50 times in an attempt to understand what the person is saying....ugh

Jul 16, 2017 03:39 AM
Marte Cliff

Barbara Todaro - Sometimes I have to give up.

Jul 16, 2017 08:38 AM
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Marte Cliff Excellent points you made and I have to admit that slowing down is something I have to continually remind myself to do. 

Jul 16, 2017 04:01 AM
Marte Cliff

Just so you keep reminding yourself, Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI NMLS#1483386!

Jul 16, 2017 08:39 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Amen to everything you said, Marte. It's so frustrating to have to listen to a message again and again and still not fully be clear about someone's name and/or phone number. I always speak slowly when leaving a message and always say my phone number twice.

Jul 16, 2017 04:17 AM
Marte Cliff

Nina Hollander - that sure makes it easier on the person who wants to return your call.

Jul 16, 2017 08:40 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Marte Cliff ,

I'm so glad Gabe Sanders re-blogged your post! I missed it and you are right on. I have many clients or new clients that have an accent and its hard to understand the numbers they leave. They talk so fast its heard to understand them! Speaking slowing and distinctly works so much better!

Jul 16, 2017 05:02 AM
Marte Cliff

Dorie Dillard Some people are hard to understand even when they speak slowly. When they go fast, it's impossible. And it's not just in phone messages.

Every now and then I see someone interviewed on a news show who has a high voice and speaks in a "rat-a-tat" manner. I catch a word here and there, but really have no idea what they're saying.

Jul 16, 2017 08:43 AM
Jim Smith
The Property Management Company - Round Rock, TX

Nothing more aggravating than "This is John, call me" (no number, no purpose, etc.)

  1. Clearly identify yourself
  2. Summarize the purpose of the call
  3. Only include details if relevant
  4. State action desired (call back, email, other,)
  5. Clearly and slowly leave phone number/email at least twice.
Jul 18, 2017 06:01 AM
Marte Cliff

Jim Smith Even if they leave a number, those messages with no stated purpose are a problem. Is it a potential client - or is it a sales person who will try to take a chunk out of your already busy day?

Jul 18, 2017 12:54 PM
Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA
Future Home Realty - Seminole, FL
Providing the integrity and service you deserve.

This is true. I just got a message this evening from a client leaving her husbands number for me to call. I must have replayed the message 10 times and I still wasn't sure. Called the first number I thought it was and it was a non-working number. Got a voice mail with the 2nd number I tried. Left a message but have no idea if I had the right number or not. So I sent them both an email, which they responded to. I had the number all wrong. 

Aug 04, 2017 07:23 PM
Marte Cliff

Thank goodness you had the email addresses, Stavrula "Sam" Crafa, RNC,GRI, CDPE, PSA. When that happens to me it's usually a message from a complete stranger.

Aug 04, 2017 07:57 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Returning a  call when the person has called from a different number. Most frustrating is when you redial and it's their big way  to figure out who called.

My favorite.."Call me right away." No other information.

Aug 05, 2017 09:37 AM
Marte Cliff

Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland - yes, those people who give you the number for the whole company either don't leave a name or they mumble it so badly that you have no idea who called - or why.

Aug 05, 2017 09:54 AM
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Great post, Marte Cliff. Unfortunately, I (and most people I know) am hesitant to answer calls from numbers that are not familiar, even though it could be our next client!  Leaving a clear message is not just necessary if you want a call back, it's common courtesy. 

Thanks for sharing! I feel a little more normal now .

Aug 05, 2017 03:43 PM
Marte Cliff

Bruce Kunz If I'm in an answering mood or expecting someone to call, I go ahead and pick up - and if it's a robo-call or someone trying to sell me something, I just hang up.

Except the other day - when that guy who claims to have "fixed my computer last time" called. For some reason I answered him and told him to quit calling - we're on the do not call list. When he started arguing and telling me he had a right to call and that I was not on the do not call list, I'm afraid I lost my temper.

Unfortunately, common courtesy isn't so common any more.

Aug 05, 2017 04:42 PM
Ben DeHaven
Haven Realty & Investments - Winter Haven, FL
Proudly serving Winter Haven & Lakeland, Florida

Great post. I always repeat my number twice at the end of the message. Not quite as bad as those old "Head-On" commercials.

Aug 05, 2017 09:46 PM