Is voicemail, like the white pages, another casualty of the digital age?
At one point in time, voicemail was an indispensable tool of business communication. It was the best way to communicate to someone you couldn't catch live. But in the last 15 years, as email, SMS, and now social media have all become mainstream, voicemail has become as anachronistic as a 1200 baud modem. Email, SMS, and social media are all much higher-bandwidth communication channels that put the recipient in charge. They are random-access and high-speed - people generally read faster than they talk - so using them makes you much more productive than voicemail.Like pretty much everyone, I have more than one voicemail account. Even my retired mother has two - one for her home number and one for her cell phone. I have three: work, home, and cell. My wife typically deals with the home voicemail, but she's about as good at dealing with our home voicemail as I am at dealing with my work voicemail. I regularly find new messages on our home machine that are days, if not weeks, old.
Am I just lazy? Certainly. But I think the bigger issue is that voicemail is fundamentally low-bandwidth and there are better high-bandwidth alternatives available. And I'm not alone. I conducted an informal poll of a number of people that I interact with regularly and all of them seem to say the same thing. Based on my less than scientific polling, the number of people who are saying "don't leave me a voicemail" is on the rise. Everyone hates voicemail, and most of their usage patterns seem to mirror mine.
I never check voicemail at home and only rarely check it at work. So the only voicemail that really matters is the voicemail on my cell phone, and for that, Caller-ID is my prioritization tool. If I know you, I'll call you back long before listening to your message. If I don't, your message will slip below the fold and off of my to-do list faster than an email flower offer from FTD.
So if I know you, call away, but don't leave a message. I'll see it's you from caller-ID and call you back. If I don't know you, then the best way to get my attention is to send me an email. You have a much better chance of me responding.
I always find it comical when certain people - usually people I don't know who want something from me - leave me message after message in the mistaken belief that if they leave a lot of long messages, I will eventually break down and return their calls. It's akin to the speaker who thinks that by talking louder the person he's talking to who doesn't speak his language will understand.
"Me no speak voicemail."