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VOICE-MAIL ETIQUETTE

Communication Briefings, a Blackwood, N.J. newsletter, offers the following tips for vioce-mail etiquette:

* Greetings should be short, friendly, slow enough to understand, and in plain English.

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* Options on a menu should be order of popularity, so most people don't have to listen through a long list of alternatives before their own option comes up.

* Callers should always be given an easy exit so they don't wind up in "voice-mail jail." If they want to talk to a live operator, make that one of the first options on the menu.

* Don't put voice-mail on a complaints line, unless you have too many callers. It is not a good substitute for service and will send all the wrong signals about your business.

* Check your voice-mail frequently and try to respond within 24 hours.

* Program your messaging system to kick in after a couple of rings. People tend to get frustatrated by waiting more than a few rings and may hang up.

* Try the system out yourself to learn if what seems "efficient" from the inside is exasperating customers.