My voicemail inbox is perpetually full. My parents regularly text me, “Meliss – your inbox is FULL. Delete some messages NOW please!” (yes, capital letters are often used for extra emphasis). I’ll do it, of course, to make them happy but it’s kind of a nuisance in my opinion. In all honesty, I don’t even recall what my voicemail greeting says – is it the standard “you have reached” or did I record something special? Eh, who knows.
Apparently, it’s not just me who feels this way. I was reading an NPR article the other day in which millennials expressed a similar sentiment: “When it comes to voice mail, they’re just over it.” One millennial went on to explain that they find voicemail too time-consuming; if someone really wants to get in touch with her, there are other ways to do it – text or Facebook messages, for example. Service providers like Vonage have even reported significantly lower voicemail retrievals over the past year – just another sign pointing to shifting voicemail user preferences and trends. This is a stark contrast compared to the 96% of respondents from a 2013 survey who said that they are likely to read their messages and texts back quickly after receiving them.
From the same voicemail-to-text survey referenced above, we found that traditional voicemail is a pain point for some (or a lot) of people, with 27% reporting that they are burdened by the prospect of listening to it when they get a voicemail and 19% expressing feelings of frustration or annoyance after getting a voicemail. For me, I know that when I’m in my groove on a busy day the last things I want to do are: 1) answer a call from an unidentified number (usually someone trying to sell me something), and 2) listen to the voicemail from that person because I [obviously] didn’t answer their call in the first place (you cold callers out there trying to reach me, this message if for you). Thankfully, I work for a company that not only offers an alternative to their employees, but actually created the technology behind it. Instead of having to enter my PIN to listen to voicemails that have stacked up over time, I receive an almost immediate transcription of that voicemail, sent directly to my email inbox. This format doesn’t interrupt my flow and it gives me the option to either scan the transcribed text quickly, or if it’s something that I think warrants further attention, I can always listen to the attached recording. It’s all about the convenience factor for me.
Now, I don’t want you to confuse my general feelings toward voicemail and risk being caste into one of those millennial stereotypes: they only look out for themselves; they can’t get offline, etc. As cited in the NPR article, Jane Buckingham, a trend analyst at Trendera, explained it perfectly:
“Everyone criticizes the millennials for being the ‘me’ generation and being so entitled,” she says. “I don’t think they’re so entitled. I think they’re just incredibly pragmatic. So for them if a voice mail isn’t practical — which most of the time it isn’t — and there’s a more practical way of delivering the same information, they’re gonna go for that.”
With that said, there is a time and a place for voicemail. This isn’t meant to be an overzealous petition to eradicate voicemail from the world. If it’s one of my family members’ birthdays, chances are I’d like to call them and have a live conversation. And for certain people (my parents, for example) voicemail may even be preferred over text. It’s not about eliminating voicemail altogether, it’s about giving people options. My doctor’s office even recently introduced the ability for patients to receive text-based appointment reminders rather than automated voice recording reminders. Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate when asked to offer up my cell number.
We are in the age of 140 character tweets and six second Vines – I expect to have a say in how I find, share and consume information. 59% of 18-25 year old respondents said they would “absolutely” or “most likely” switch to a voice-to-text service over standalone traditional voicemail when they were presented with the option. Would you?