Episode 10 – Voicemail has no place in a voice driven world

Based on the feedback from the previous episode, we learned that most people prefer communicating via text message. We also learned that people overwhelmingly despise voicemail. How ironic that in an age becoming dominated by Alex, Siri and Google Home and countless voice recognition services that the recorded voice has become an annoyance. In this episode we discuss this as well as how the popularity of text messages will make it a popular place for advertisers to broadcast their own messages. So here is my 17 minute long voicemail for you all to enjoy.


After posting last week’s episode on communication, how we prefer to communicate and how others prefer to be contacted, I received lots of feedback about how people prefer to communicate. The overwhelming response was that people prefer text messaging to any other form of communication. The other point that a majority of respondents expressed is that they despise voicemail. I’m still trying to wrap my arms around this one. I completely understand the progression of technology and the desire for instant communication without human interaction. What amazes me is that voicemail has no place in a world that is progressing to a voice driven world. You might have expected that voicemail would have made a resurgence and companies like Apple and Verizon would be investing in a new generation of voicemail.

If you consider all of the people who won;t even setup a voicemail greeting, I suppose we could have seen it coming. Most people shy away from recording a greeting. They either simply record their name or allow the default greeting that states the phone number then says, “is not available.” Think about the last time you set up a greeting if at all. How many times did you rerecord it? The whole process starts out stressful. No wonder nobody likes it.

Without any data to back this up, I think voicemail will resurge in the future, however not like the current recording but like a Snapchat message. For those unfamiliar, a Snapchat message is a short video clip that a user self records and sends to their friends. Voicemail really hasn’t improved in quite some time. our voicemail boxes fill up even faster, while e-mail boxes become unlimited. Maybe there’s something behind the data and bandwidth required to transmit, store and replay voice recordings that make it such a hassle for cellular providers to keep up with.

Is it human nature and the technical life cycle that are killing voicemail or are Verizon and AT&T stunting voicemail’s progression due to the fact that its their servers that have to store all these messages? If we start using Whatsapp and Snapchat to to communicate we’ll be consuming more bandwidth and data however Snapchat and Whatsapp will be responsible for storing all those messages on their servers. So when Verizon and AT&T had a hard time upselling visual voicemail, which allows users to read their messages, maybe they determined that voicemail needs to die and we are playing into their hands. Now that’s just fun speculation but hey, you never know.

Generally amongst family and friends, text messaging is an absolutely welcome method of communication. Essentially you want all of your family and friends to be able to contact you immediately. It’s great for group chats that mimic AOL chat rooms, in a private sense. Chats are solid for making plans an even resolving conflicts.

Recently, text messages have become much more acceptable in business. Two not so recent but still pretty recent technical advances that propelled text messaging in business are first, unlimited talk and text plans so we don’t have to combat the moral dilemma everyone had about using minutes or messages on someone’s personal phone. Do you remember how inconsiderate it was to waste someone’s minutes or messages when they weren’t reimbursed for their personal phone at work? Let’s not bring up waiting until 9 PM to call to avoid wasting anytime minutes? I may be dating myself with that one.

The other not so recent but recent advance in technology that has propelled text messaging is the ability to send and receive text messages while currently on a phone conversation. This, coupled with caller ID, has virtually eliminated both the need to put a call on hold to answer another incoming call and also thwarts off unwanted voicemails because you can engage the caller without answering the call. If you think back a few years, we used to have to wait until our phone call was over before we would receive text messages received during the call.

In this age of telecommuting and work at home employees, everyone seems to always be on a conference call. When you need information fast, now you can shoot a text to a coworker or vendor to get some last minute information or simply remind them of the call they need to be on. These two not so recent but recent technical advances have really helped text messaging play a role in business.

There’s a great application we use called Twilio. Twilio allows developers to automate text messages as well as other methods of communicating. We’ve been able to use Twilio to create customer messaging for e-commerce orders and also an application that receives service calls via text message and responds based on user response. Examples of how we are engaging with services via text message are when we receive a text message when an Uber car arrives or when you receive an alert from Netflix via text message.

In the near future you will continue to see businesses interact with their customers via text message. Developers will continue to develop capabilities that will automate conversations to help customers get the information or service they desire by texting back and forth with a robotic system. You’ll love it. Even fewer human beings that you’ll have to interact with.

Now comes the big question! What tolerance will we have for interacting with brands? Since the text message has 100% of everyone’s attention, it will be soon acclaimed as the prime space to present your business’ offers, messages and advertisements. Are we ready for that? Are you ready to start getting ads via text message? You may be getting some already. I’m signed up to less than half a dozen text messaging marketing lists. The messages they send are quickly dismissed if I’m busy or if interesting, I click the link.

From a user/personal standpoint, I may be interested in engaging with a handful of brands that I like. In due time, as the list of companies I sign up with grows, the amount of interruptions in the day may become a bit intolerable. What’s it going top be like when I have to start managing the list of brands I subscribe to. We all know that as soon as we sign up for a few lists, our number is going to land on a list that is sold to low tier brands. This means we are going to need a spam filter for our texts. I can’t say I look forward to receiving more advertisements via text message but as a businessman, I can see the opportunity.

People read every single one of their text messages. The e-mails that Tech 2 Success sends via MailChimp to our customers and prospects have an open rate of 19% to large lists and up to 40% on targeted lists. I know its not apples to apples but e-mails used to have a 100% open rate 20 years ago as well. Its a pretty good opportunity to jump into the text message marketing game if you have the ability to build a good list of people willing to share their numbers with you. Generally offering a discount or freebie in exchange for sign ups can help you build a solid list of text numbers that can be used to help your brand engage with its user base.

Because the text message is very personal and the message will be more impactful than any other media, businesses must be diligent in producing meaningful content and engaging offers that will retain your client’s attention. We assume that because by giving you their number, the customer has permitted you into their personal space and will subsequently eliminate you from that space after the first message that does not spark their interest or just bothers them. Then they are gone forever. Its a fine line to walk.

How will this advancement in text messaging produce advancements in text messaging apps? I’m speaking about the native texting apps on your phone that’s directly linked to your phone and phone service. I know there are advanced apps already in the market. How will users manage their messages? Do you delete messages after you read them? I’ve never deleted a text. In fact, I find it helpful to see previous messages from someone before I text them. It either reminds me of our last conversation or confirms for me that I have the correct number when I have numerous numbers labeled “mobile” for a contact. My friend Marco claims to delete messages regularly and manages his inbox well. It appears as if he is in the minority but certainly benefiting from diligent management.

As businesses start using text messages more, will apps start implementing spam filters like they do in e-mail? We can block numbers but as the amount of messages received as ads starts to match the personal messages we receive, an automated system for identifying junk will be necessary. If we continue to look at features e-mail implemented as usage grew, productivity comes to mind. How can we convert a text into a task? Will we be able to send it to a calendar appointment or simply flag it for follow up?

I know I’m going down a path of hypothetical what ifs as i see text messaging further impacting our business and home life. The answer may just be that text messages are not e-mail and those productivity features may be simply best handled by complimentary applications. Time will tell but I’m curious if Microsoft , Amazon, Facebook and Google view the growing popularity of text messaging and how they can leverage it for their own benefit. I can tell you that I am actively thinking about how to leverage text message marketing in my businesses.

Nevertheless, we are definitely not contemplating how to leverage voicemail to market and grow our businesses. As I was researching and preparing for this podcast episode, I came across an interesting post on Facebook by Anthony Campanella, a friend of mine from high school. He posted quote, “If you leave me a voicemail and don’t follow up with an e-mail and/or text message, you will never get a response. Voicemail is like faxing for me. I gave that nonsense up years ago. That’s just the way it is. I cant help being this way.” end quote. it’s a great post and probably applies to a majority of people. I can’t say its age related but it may be. I don’t consider guys our age millennials although some classifications might, depending on what years of birth they use. It just seems as if voicemail is falling out of favor. And to think I can remember when we first got an answering machine and how exciting it was that we would never miss another call.

I guess the advancements in caller ID have also reduced the need for voicemail. This week I’ve been able to see the number calling me on every call I’ve received. So if I leave my phone in another room or I’m on the other line and miss a call, I can see who I missed and quickly decide to return the call or not, eliminating the need for a message.

As a business person, I still value voicemail. Especially as the person responsible for business development, the ability to leave a message for people who can’t or won’t take my call is valuable. This past Thursday, I closed a business opportunity that I left a voicemail for once a month for three months. When the client called, he said he saved my message. On the flip side, as a business person, i want to give customers and prospective customers the opportunity to contact me in any way they desire. If it were necessary, I would have a carrier pigeon coup on my roof. You want to buy something from me via Pony Express? We’ll send the ponies.

The irony is that as people desire to speak with each other less often, they prefer to speak to machines more often. Alexa controls all of the lights in my office, reminds me when to switch the laundry and answers all the dumb questions I have. Siri has been serving iPhone users for years. Have you ever watched how goofy people look when they are using voice commands to send text messages. It all doesn’t have to make sense. I just feel bad for girls named Alexa.

So at the risk of beating this topic to death, the bottom line is make sure your text messaging game is on point and if you leave a voicemail for someone and don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. It isn’t. Just shoot them a text instead.

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