Do We Need Voice Mail Anymore?

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The Chicago Tribune asks, and it’s easy to see why. Data show people are leaving fewer voice messages, and fewer people are listening to the ones that arrive.

Some people (including myself) can ignore voice mail for days. The message can become obsolete within minutes of arriving, anyway – if you’re busy and don’t answer a call, chances are you’ll get a text message, a Facebook post, an email, or another call. Those text-based communications tend to get to the point quicker and demand less time.

When they don’t, you can easily skim. Even if you aren’t screening calls and just missed one, tapping the name or number to dial back is usually quicker than listening to the voice message.

A phone company executive told the Tribune their research showed people aren’t avoiding contact – they want the message, but voice mail is an obstacle.

It’s slow and treats us like we’re stupid (please wait for the tone, and when you’re done you can hang up, OK?) and depending on the provider and the phone, may require going through robotic prompts. You might go through that just to hear “Call me” or a long-winded explanation you can’t make sense of without interjecting questions.

That’s why companies like Vonage are implementing, or already have, systems that convert voice messages into text ones. And why some companies (certainly not in the customer-service sector) are considering ditching their voice mail altogether. If it was an option that lowered my phone bill, I would too.

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