HBR Also Realizing Voicemail Is Irrelevant


In 2011 I shared thinking that voicemail is basically irrelevant in a text-driven world. Since that time leaving voicemail has, from a cultural and utilitarian standpoint, continued to slip from dated to obnoxious.

So it was great to see Michael Schrage at Harvard Business Review catch on to this and today publish a post saying it’s time to hang up voicemail:

Who writes with fountain pens? When did you last prepare transparencies or exchange faxes?  RIM? RIP. Sic transit gloria mundi. When once-innovative technologies descend—decay?—into anachronism, it’s time to put them out of your misery. Disconnect enterprise voice mail.  Now.  Be honest—you don’t really want to leave a 90-second message after the beep and you certainly don’t care to listen to one. You’ve got faster, better and friendlier ways to communicate.

Beyond going into the same reasons we previously went into on voicemail being awful, Michael shared some stats on the decline:

…That the technology is in decline is no secret. In 2012, Vonage reported its year-over-year voicemail volumes dropped 8%. More revealing, the number of people bothering to retrieve those messages plummeted 14%. More and more personal and corporate voicemail boxes now warn callers that their messages are rarely retrieved and that they’re better off sending emails or texts. Consequently, informal individual policies have metastasized into de facto institutional practice. Is that wise?

In a world where not only voicemails themselves are decreasing but an increasing amount of people never bother to check them, it’s clear they’re slipping into irrelevance. Text is superior: more efficient for sender and receiver, clearer and ultimately better. Plus it’s easy to add visuals and prove your point.

I’m glad to see publications like HBR and others catching on to the way work is now done (they also recently reiterated my thinking on meetings from 2010). They’re giving the right guidance, even if they’re just a bit late to the party.

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