How Voice Mail Works

Setting Up and Using Voice Mail Accounts

setting up voice mail
Setting up voice mail is simple -- it just involves following the automated attendant's prompts.
© Photographer: Norman Pogson | Agency: Dreamstime

Setting up your voice-mail account is easy, with intuitive software and auto-attendants ready to walk you through the process with commands and choices.

Here's a typical example of the steps to follow when setting up and using voice mail accounts.


  1. Dial the phone number to access voice mail system.
  2. Follow the auto-attendant's instructions to create a numeric pass code, usually four to six numbers.
  3. Follow the auto-attendant's instructions to record an outgoing message, also known as a "greeting."
  4. Follow the auto-attendant's instructions to take advantage of other features, such as forwarding message, paging and auto fax pick up.

Cell phone voice mail, residential voice mail and office voice mail all work in a similar fashion. Usually the process starts with dialing a main number. The number puts the user into the front-end interface of the voice-mail provider. Often the auto-attendant will prompt the user for a mailbox number, which usually is the same as the user's personal phone number, but not always. It will ask for a numeric pass code of some type. If you don't have one, it will prompt you to create and enter a new one. Usually people choose a number that's easy to remember, but not too obvious. A favorite number, the birth date of a parent or friend are examples. Whatever you choose, it's important to safeguard it to protect your privacy and identity.

Once into a system, the first thing you'll want to do is record a greeting. Your greeting is what people will hear when you're not there to answer the phone, therefore your greeting is very important.

Often, the system auto-attendant will prompt you to record a greeting. It may ask you to press a series of key pads to do so. Follow the directions closely. Think about what you'd like to say and the way you'd like to say it. Both what you say and your tone of voice are important. Speak clearly and cheerfully. Include your first and last name, your job title and company. Give short, simple instructions for leaving a message. Tell people when they can expect to hear back from you. Updating your greeting frequently can let callers know that this is a vibrant, active voice mail mailbox and leaving a message will not be an exercise in futility.

Some systems allow you to leave both an external greeting, meant for the public, outside caller, and an internal greeting, meant for your co-workers. Think carefully about how to approach each. You may choose to include information for an internal greeting that you wouldn't for an external greeting. Still, both messages should be short, clear and respectful.

Some voice-mail systems offer many other options for users, including paging, auto fax pickup and ways to integrate voice mail with other electronic communications such as e-mail and text messaging. You should consult your auto-attendant or user manual to take advantage of such features. You might also consider how much electronic messaging technology you need to do your job effectively.

Residential and cell phone voice mail works in largely the same way. Set up your mailbox, select a pass code and record a greeting. Personal voice mail and office or business voice mail can provide a valuable service.

On the next page, we'll talk about the advantages that voice mail offers over the traditional answering machine.