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Stop leaving voicemails. Voicemail is dead. Here’s why.

When was the last time you said, “Wow, I’m so glad I got that voicemail!”…?

Tell me. Do you get a thrill when you see that the VM icon on your phone is lit up? Didn’t think so. Maybe it’s time we faced the fact that voicemail is a technology whose time has come — and gone.

Once upon a time, voicemail was a dream. It was a wonderful alternative. Instead of leaving a message through a person who translated our words (with or without accuracy) on a pink slip of paper, and then having it thrown on a desk with 20 other slips of paper, we could speak directly. We didn’t have to speak in slow motion, spell everything out, edit ourselves in our heads, and then repeat ourselves while someone wrote our words down. Compared to that, voicemail was a miracle! We could talk to someone without having to be on the phone at the same time. We could even mark our message “urgent”! It felt so productive!

But now we have so many other forms of asynchronous communication. We have emails, we have text messages, IM’s, DM’s, Snapchats… Even Evernote has a “chat” function! The number of ways we can send a message to someone seems to grow everyday. Maybe it’s time to drop one: voicemail.

Why, you say? Why has voicemail’s time come and gone?

Leaving someone a voicemail is giving them a project to do

The main problem with voicemail is that it’s not text. In order to do anything with a voicemail, I have to transcribe it into some form of text. Either I write it down on a sticky note (and lose it), or I create a to-do in my to-do list, or I go write an email, text message, or IM about it. But any of these tasks is easier if the original message came as text instead of voice.

Voicemails are low priority

When you have just a couple of minutes to respond to messages, most people will default to their text based messages (email, text, etc.) and leave their voicemail box for later. It takes too long to listen, transcribe, and then respond. If I jump into email I can clear the whole mailbox before I’ve dealt with one voicemail. So leaving a voicemail message is putting your message in the low priority inbox for most people.

But I want them to hear my voice

I’m a huge fan of calling people on the phone — don’t misunderstand me on that. There are so many benefits to talking to someone in real time that it actually saves time. With tone alone there is a level of understanding that you just can’t get in a text or an email — even if you use CAPS. Confusion and miscommunication is not just minimized, but it’s cleared up so much more quickly on the phone than by other means. But voicemail doesn’t have these benefits. Sure, they can hear your tone of voice — but they can’t respond to it. Apart from capturing tone, voicemail has all the limitations of any other asynchronous communication, plus it takes more time to listen and transcribe the message.

If you want them to really hear you, then you want to talk to them in real time. Call them back later, or send them an email to schedule a time for a call.

But I’m in the car! Or — I don’t want to type on this tiny keyboard!

There can be certain limitations to text communication — typing is one. But if you have a modern smart phone, you have either Siri, or Google Now, or both (or even Cortana, I guess). My point is that there are a variety of ways that you can turn text to speech. I understand that these applications can hilariously mis-interpret you sometimes, so make sure you edit your messages!

There really aren’t many excuses for not sending a text based message instead of a voice message.

I’m not the only one with this crazy idea

As of December, Coca-cola turned off their voicemail system at their corporate office to “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity,” according to an internal memo from Chief Information Officer Ed Steinike.

Do you agree?

Here’s how to get on board: be the change you want to see in the world! If you don’t like getting voicemails, don’t leave voicemails. Hang up and send a text based message. Then help your callers to do the same for you: change your outgoing VM message to give people alternative ways to contact you. Give them your cell phone number so that they can text you. Give them your email address so they can email you. Give folks a text based choice. Then tell the world about it with the hashtag #VMisDead

If you don’t agree I want to hear from you! Tell me why voicemail should live — I really want to hear your reasons. Just don’t leave it on my voicemail. 😉

Photo credit: MoShotz

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