Skip the Greeting on Popular Voicemail Systems

Learn the magic codes to skip voicemail greetings.

Stever Robbins
3-minute read
Episode #4


I’m not in right now, but please leave a message and I’ll call you back. At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, hang up, or press 1 for more options.

Voicemail Greetings

I love talking to voice-mail systems. The synthesized voice sounds so caring, so genuine. On a busy day, I might make 30 phone calls. Since no one answers any more, the voice-mail lady talks to me a lot. If we spend 30 seconds exchanging our sweet nothings, that’s up to 15 minutes a day. That adds up. Figure I do this two and a half days a week. That’s half an hour weekly, listening to her say the same thing, over and over. That’s 25 hours a year -- more than half of a work week. Three days, half a week, listening to her repeat her little story. Excuse me, but I wouldn’t put up with that from my snuggle-bunny, much less an electronic harlot with no respect for my time. (The honeymoon is over, baby, say something new or get out of my life.)

Of course, I’d really rather she just got out of my life. Back when answering machines were mechanical, approximately two billion people learned to leave their name and number at the beep. They didn’t need the extra instructions. Just, “beep.” Life was good.

Then voice-mail companies decided we needed instructions again. I don't know, maybe telephone company execs were so stupid that they need step-by-step instructions and didn’t realize the rest of us passed 2nd grade with flying colors. We really don’t need to waste half a week a year on this silliness.

How to Skip Voicemail Instructions

Fortunately, on most voice-mail systems, you can skip the greeting. This is good for two reasons. One, when you call someone, you can skip their greeting. Two, in your outgoing message, you can tell people how to skip the greeting.

The magic codes are as follows:

Most voice-mail systems, the corporate ones, will let you skip the prompt by pressing pound (#), one (1), or star key (*). You may have to experiment to know which one works on a given person’s voice-mail system, but for people you call a lot, just record it in a note in their address book entry.

For cell phones, the major carriers are easy. And I'd like to thank listener Gregg Sanderson for sending these along:

  • For T-Mobile, press the pound button (#)

  • For Sprint, press the number one (1)

  • For AT&T, press seven (7)

  • For Verizon, press the star button (*)

Sprint makes it especially easy for you, since their little Ronnie-the-Robot voice starts out with “You’ve reach the Sprint voice mailbox of …” Press 1 as soon as she says “Sprint” to reach blissful silence that much sooner.

Proper Voicemail Greetings

Now let’s talk about outgoing greetings. Consider mine. “Hi, you’ve reached Stever. I’m not in right now, but please leave your name and number at the tone, and I’ll call you back as soon as I return.” I do like to hear myself talk, don’t I? And it’s all wrong! You haven’t reached Stever, you’ve reached voicemail. Even my 4-year-old nephew can tell the difference. “I’m not in right now.” Duh. No need to say that. “Leave your name and number at the tone.” We’ve covered this. Anyone who can dial a phone knows this. And as for me calling back soon? Let’s just say if wishes were horses, uh … I guess we’d have a lot of horses. [[AdMiddle]

Don’t make my mistake. Start by telling your callers how to skip your greeting. Then do something with personality, or just be Zen and let the beep happen. “Hi, you’ve reached Stever’s line. Press # to skip this message. I’m traveling to Burning Man this week, wearing nothing but body paint, dancing naked in the desert around two metric tons of unexploded TNT. If I don’t call you back, look for a glow in the West followed by a really loud BANG.”

So save yourself half a week each year by skipping voice-mail greetings, and help your callers skip yours. If you must make them listen, at least make the listening fun.

If you have questions about how to Work Less and Do More, e-mail your question to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com, go to the Get-It-Done section of https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/, or leave it on voice mail at 866-WRK-LESS. There’s no way to skip the greeting, but there’s also no dumb recorded voice except mine. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.