Is Voicemail Dead?

In a word, yes. At least for me. I probably don’t get more than two or three voice mail messages a month. Usually, these are calls from sales people who are prospecting or automated voice mail messages (e.g., a message from Walgreen’s, letting me know that my prescription is ready).

iPhone with no voice mail messages

In my experience, the problem with voice mail is two-fold: (1) it’s more difficult to retrieve a message as compared to the alternatives and (2) it’s more difficult to integrate into my workflow. I hate to listen to a rambling voice mail message. People can ramble via email, too, but email is easier to scan and determine what the sender wants.

Instead of voice mail, I find that people are resorting to one of four methods of communication:

  1. Regular email. This is the best option when you need to provide background or attachments, involve more than one other person in the conversation, or need to retain a record of the communication. But except for spam, I am finding that my email volume is actually decreasing.
  2. Instant Messaging. We are increasingly using this in the office. It is great for direct communication with one person, especially when all I need is an answer to a simple question. It is also less disruptive than calling the other person or walking into their office.
  3. Direct Messaging via Twitter. I use Twitter for nearly all of my one-to-one, direct communications. It is just so convenient. It allows me to use one application (i.e., TweetDeck) to manage all of my non-email communication. However, you have to be aware of the limitations. I have occasionally sent a public message that I intended to be private.
  4. Text Messages via Phone. I use this occasionally with family and friends, particularly if I need to communicate a message that is longer than the Twitter limitation of 140 characters. I also use it when I don’t want to risk accidently sending a public message with confidential or sensitive information.

Beyond all of this, one of the reasons I think voice mail is dead is that my kids and their friends are no longer using it. In fact, they are barely using email. If I want a response from them, I have to send it via a direct message on Twitter or a text message.

Question: What about you? Do you agree? Disagree? What is your preferred method of communication and why?
Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to a self-hosted WordPress blog? It’s easier than you think! Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it, step-by-step. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

Watch my free screencast

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com/ Derek

    You're right.

    With an old-fashioned answering machine, at least you could get your messages with a single press of a button.

    With voicemail there's a greeting to listen to, a password to enter, menu options to listen to, buttons to press, get the voicemail, more menu options, more buttons to press …

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. It is just too cumbersome.

  • http://www.thesecretlifeofkat.com Secret Life of Kat

    I rarely leave voicemail and I rarely check my messages.

    My friends know that the best way to get a hold of me is via email. I do prefer txt and Twitter, but very few of my real life friends use them.

    And by few I mean none.

    Oh, the trials of being a techie stay at home mom.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      You need to be a better evangelist for Twitter. It will make your life much easier! ;-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thejeffbrown Jeff Brown

    I agree Michael. I rarely receive voice mails any longer. When I do, they're a chore. I much prefer the other methods you describe. I haven't been much of a fan of many IM clients, but for work, I just began using Yammer (http://yammer.com) and am testing with my staff. It's basically Twitter/Social Network for your staff. Only people with the URL "wayfm" can even get in. I can create private groups too (GMs, Operations Directors, WAY-FM Nashville staff, whatever). I can even bring in RSS feeds, links, images, tags and more.

    If all goes well, I will be recommending it to WAY-FM corporate for adoption throughout the whole company. My hope is to see some of the "silos" that have evolved over the years to begin to fall.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thejeffbrown Jeff Brown

    Trying that link above again.

    http://www.yammer.com

  • http://christianmananddogma.com Jay Colle

    Leaving a voice mail is a waste of time. Most of the people I contact are on cell phones and when they see that I called they call me back—whether I left a voice mail or not. And they do not listen to the voice mail if I happen to leave one. I have had countless "loud discussions" with my children and spouse about this but I wave the white flag. It's dead, at least to me.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I find it is much easier just to call the person back.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/colleencoble colleencoble

    I've noticed as well that my kids prefer to send an email or a text message. If I leave a voicemail on their phones, they just call me back without listening to it. And when I listen to voicemail, I usually just listen long enough to know the gist of the message then delete it and call them back.

  • http://www.aaronklein.com Aaron Klein

    Michael,

    I'm at the stage of WISHING voice mail were dead, but it isn't for me yet. On all of my outbound voice mail messages, I say "if your matter is urgent, please send me an e-mail message", but I still get 2-3 voice mail messages per day.

    I've then switched my voice mail to YouMail (http://www.youmail.com, available for iPhone, BlackBerry or any other cell phone), and for $3.99 per month, it will transcribe the first 15 seconds of my voice mails.

    I then get to skim the messages like you described, and I typically respond by e-mail or with a telephone call without ever listening to the message. I probably don't listen to 80% of the voice mails I receive now because of that.

    Aaron

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

    I hate listening to voicemail messages. What a waste of time, when instead you can call someone back, ask them what they needed, and give them an answer all in one fell swoop.

    I just wish that now that voicemail is dead, a missed call would alert people that I want them to call me back.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brianfalexander Brian Alexander

    I agree with you Michael. I use text messaging to get MLB Score alerts for my favorite team (Atlanta Braves) as well as facebook notifications (when i'm away from and signed out of facebook).

    Twitter is my best friend. I use thwirl because tweetdeck too me takes up way too much of my monitor space, also I can't adjust the font size or anything. If I used tweetdeck all the time I would never accomplish any work. Twirl works great for me and it's all in one small little window.

    I never leave voice mails, and if I do the people never call me back. I ALWAYS try my best to respond to a text. Texting is probably the best way to get in contact with me if you have a question. If you call me it better be important and to the point.

    I use email if I have a question about a website, or if a website isn't working the way for me. Most of my personal emails are ones relating to websites.

    I'd have to agree though not a lot of people like to use email in my age. I still do and plan to keep using it.

    Great post Michael. Your blog is always interesting! Hope your week is starting off good.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dgoepfrich dgoepfrich

    I still use VM – but only when I really have to. I agree that Twitter and text are the way to go, and I do both frequently throughout the day.

    Most VM action still happens in the office, when I'm checking what someone has left for me or the church office (still…me).

  • http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/ Lynn Rush

    Michael,
    You are SO right. I'm over voicemail. I'd rather talk online via FaceBook Chat, Twitter DM, or regular email anyday. But there are still those few out there fighting it (kinda like I'm fighting the Kindle, although my resolve is waning) — so, I will get on the phone for them :-)

    Great post. Have a nice day.

  • http://seanwilder.blogspot.com Sean Wilder

    In my humble opinion, if you are not going to have voice mail, just do away with your phone altogether (or at least your incoming phone number). Would you really expect someone to call you on the phone, listen to four or five rings, then hang up and send you an e-mail instead of just leaving a voicemail? It seems a little inconvenient for the caller. For a CEO, access to him/her needs to be limited or at least filtered, so I can understand how convenience for the incoming caller wouldn't be a priority. As a sales pro, though, I want to offer my customers the ability to communicate with me by any method that they prefer. As long as the checks are cashing, I can deal with their rambling messages. :)

    I do hate listening to those messages, though. Google Voice offers the transcription service that Aaron mentioned free.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I actually get very, very few calls period. My cell phone has morphed to a mobile text messaging and email device.

      I can definitely understand your point-of-view as a sales professional. You really have to be accessible via the form that your customers prefer.

      • http://seanwilder.blogspot.com Sean Wilder

        My incoming call volume has dropped drastically over the past couple of years too. It seems that all of us agree that voice mail (and possibly even the phone itself) is not the preferred method of communication any more. As someone who has been in telecom sales for the past 15 years, I am beginning to notice the writing on the wall.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JakeSchwein JakeSchwein

    i agree 100%!!!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/mtdewkids mtdewkids

    I agree to an extent. I work in sales. At the risk of being "that guy", leaving voicemail for new prospects is one way that I introduce myself to new people. I tend to use more email communication with customers that I've developed a relationship with. But for a first time introduction, I find that most people will ignore an email from someone they don't know… there's just too much email in the world. When I'm leaving a voicemail for someone I don't have a business relationship with yet, I always leave my email address and phone # for them to reply… I find many people will reply via email who don't respond with a return phone call. That works for me.

    With that said, for freinds/family communication, I rarely use vm. It's easier to txt, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    Around the office, we tend to email primarily, with some IM and Yammer mixed in there too.

    So for me, it depends on the context, voicemail is not dead yet, but it's usage is certainly declining.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/totai totai

    Press (1) to hear my comment.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Everyone wants to be a comedian. ;-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ldsquire ldsquire

    I tend to ignore voicemail. I ignore email sometimes, too, but I rarely ignore a facebook comment. :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/emuelle1 emuelle1

    I pretty much hate voice mail myself. I hate leaving it, since without feedback I tend to ramble which is a little uncomfortable. I've come to prefer text, email, and IM just for the sake of having a written record of communications. For some reason, people only seem to leave voice mail for me when I'm on the go, and the voice mail always contains details that need to be recorded, but obviously since I'm running around I don't record the information right away.

    I particularly hate my work voice mail. Of course, I only get voice mail from one person, and it's usually just to let me know that she just emailed me something. The voice mail system used at work is clumsy and non-intuitve. Why do I have to press 11 to listen to the message, rather than 1 like everywhere else? It goes downhill from there. I'm not far from changing the voice mail message at my desk phone to "I'm obviously not at my desk. Please, whatever you do, don't leave a message here. If it's important, just call my BlackBerry. If it's not time sensitive, just send me an email. You can also text me on my iPhone."

    Google Voice is promising. It has a voicemail transcription service that goes out by both email and text. I've gotten some hilarious transcriptions from it though. Google Voice also doesn't delete after 14 days, which is good. I also like that visual voicemail on the iPhone also doesn't seem to have a delete time frame.

  • http://www.timothyfish.net Timothy Fish

    My preferred form of communication: I want people to actually stand up, walk over to my desk and talk to me. If they can't do that, a phone call is nice. E-mail is okay. I hate Instant Messaging. I sometimes turn it off and force people to either call me or e-mail me if they want to use it. I haven't found that Twitter works very well for two way communication.

    I have found that it takes longer to compose and e-mail than it does to actually talk to most people. The other forms of communication make it difficult to provide the information needed.

  • http://alexanderfield.blogspot.com Alexander Field

    I do have to agree Voicemail is a waste of my time. By the time I get to the messages on my voicemail I've already answered the question via some other medium…Agreed entirely!

  • http://www.aussiejoyslife.com Joy Argow

    Yeah I agree. I am amazed at how few people actually respond to a voicemail I've left… it can be highly frustrating for me! I've noticed though if I have the ability to leave the same person a comment via facebook or even still twitter I'll get a response by the end of the day!

    Twitter is not as readily used by everyday Australian's yet though… so you've got to work out what works best for each country/client.

    Thanks for your interesting posts!

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel Hauck

    Texting is the best way to get in touch with the youth and 20-somethings. Forget email or even their social sites like Facebook.

    Voicemail on their cells is the next best way to communicate.

    As for me, I prefer voice. My phone isn't text friendly — yeah, I need to upgrade and typing messages of any length is so annoying. I just call the ones I'm trying to convey information to at that point.

    Texting is new and fun with the advent of iPhone and Blackberry. But I think some of the fascination will fade. People will grow hungry for really communication: face to face, voice to… um… ear, even have a yearning to read the hand written word.

    It's all art at some level. We'll return to versions of them all, I think.

    Again, great, thought provoking post, Mike.

    Rachel

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/ClayofCO ClayofCO

    I hate listening to them, and I hate leaving them. I even hate VM on the landline. But here's my "What the tech?!" question: Why is it taking so long to simply add a voice-to-text converter to the VM system that would give me the option to automatically send every voice mail to me as a text message? Frankly, I also strongly dislike (not quite hate) typing text messages on my cell, and would always opt to send or leave a voice-to-text message if I had the choice. I'd pay for the privilege either way, and gladly put up with a few misspelled words. Is this being done yet? Did I miss the memo?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/thejeffbrown Jeff Brown

      Have you ever heard of Jott? It was free at one time but is now a pay service I believe. Might be worth checking out though.

      http://jott.com/default2.aspx

  • Pingback: The Digital Way « Terri Patrick’s Blog

  • http://twitter.com/stubarker Stuart

    Telcos need to think about sending voicemails to your inbox. The most annoying thing in the world is getting a voicemail because your phone was engaged trying to receive that persons earlier voicemail. If you reply to that person and the same thing happens then this is a phenomenon known as a Voicemail loop. Some unfortunate individuals have been known to have been trapped in these tedious Voicemail loops for hours. Telcos please break the loop, email us our wavs!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/mvivas mvivas

    I have Vonage and they have a feature that sends you an email when someone leaves a voicemail and if you decide, you can sign up for another feature that will send you the text of the voicemail via email. This is a neat feature, especially when I'm not home and it should be implemented to mobile phones and businesses. However, once my mother called me and left me a voicemail in Spanish and the text I received was "not able to capture message". So it may not work for multilingual messages.

  • http://www.thelittlefluffycat.com thelittlefluffycat

    My husband was taken aback to find that texting was the preferred method of communication at a distance for our older son, but discovered that *since* it was, response was much more satisfactory, virtually a conversation. I enjoy IM a great deal, and twitter, for much the reasons you describe, and am quite comfortable with texting.

    I think we're going to have to get used to things being in flux, communications-wise; those who go with the flow and use the new tools well will have the advantage.

  • http://www.bradbrewer.com Wanda Brewer

    Top Voicemail Pet Peeves: 1. Brief message providing no earthly clue as to why they called and what they want. 2. Bad connection so message sounds like it was delivered underwater or while battling the hiccups 3. Long drawn out message saying nothing followed by return number blurted out in under a half a second. 4. Having to hear the caller lament how I am never available when he/she calls. Keep those fingers working the keys for emails, twitter and texting–so much more efficient.

  • http://BuildingHisBody.com Anne Lang Bundy

    There's too many people in my life who will be left behind if I abandon traditional communications — like my 70 year old mother and brother, who are both blind.

    That said, my house voice mail directs callers my cell phone number and gives a warning that I don't check the house voicemail. If business communication will be better facilitated with a conversation, I send an email with an invitation to call me at a specific time.

    Please don't kick me off this forum for admitting I don't twitter. I do enjoy the keep-it-brief chit chat of Facebook for staying in touch with friends & family.

  • Christy O

    I agree completely with voice mail being (almost) dead. I find email to be the most efficient of all methods of communication (I'm referring to work here). The main reasons include: The ability to loop other people into a conversation. Being able to ask a question and have follow-up contained within a single email chain. Having a permanent record of problems and resolutions. And personally, I use Outlook as a "to-do" list and it helps me prioritize issues if they are reported via email.

  • http://www.courageoussingleparenting.blogspot.com/ Scoti Domeij

    Is voice mail dead? Depends on with whom you work. I care for a severely disabled individual in my home and the agencies that I'm accountable to leave voice mail messages on my cell phone. All of these agencies are held accountable by the state government. One agency prefers that I hand-fill in voluminous reports. I don't. I transferred them to electronic documents that I can email, which caused a ruckus. And that agency wonders why it doesn't receive enough money to make their annual budget.

    I prefer voice mail, because when I'm writing, I don't answer the phone, respond to emails, or answer my front door. Voice mail allows me to efficiently use my time, listen to all of them in one sitting, and respond immediately.

    When I'm writing, the Twitter twerp irritates me, so I turn off Tweet Deck. I scan Twitter and Facebook messages after I reached my daily word count.

    I don't pay the extra amount for texting on my cell phone, so I don't appreciate receiving text messages. Archaic, I know.

    I prefer email to communicate because I can document what I say and the responses. Very important when monitored by the government. When I worked in an office, I emailed the person in the cubicle next to me, which I thought was hilarious! But in some organizations, CYI reigns.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/PFNikolai PFNikolai

    I would go further and say that most verbal communication over a phone is inefficient and should be eliminated. Many calls seem to originate from folks who are taking a break and want to chit-chat. My recommendation to businesses is that they remove landline phones from all offices. This would force email communication which is more efficient and creates a thread that can be archived and referred to as needed. It also would force any verbal communication to happen face-to-face or in a call to a cell phone which has better caller i.d. and other features. One type of call that is productive is the call that is initiated via email in an effort to avoid a long email exchange.

    In lieu of my office line being removed, I am considering changing my outgoing message to say “Due to an increase in the number of unsolicited telemarketing calls, I have found it necessary to ignore all incoming phone calls and voice mail messages. To reach me, send an email to <address>. If the matter is truly urgent then send a text message to <cell phone number>.” Just avoiding the question “How are you doing?” and other traditional verbal exchanges will save substantial time that can be used for more productive matters!

  • http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ Susan Cushman

    I have to disagree, Michael. Maybe my circle of callers aren't as "hip" as yours, but I still get voice mail messages regularly, even from my three children, who are in their 20s and 30s. And my mother's nursing home always leaves a voice mail message if they can't reach me. Another reason I still use it is that I travel a lot and I refuse to text while driving, but I haven't quit using the cell phone while driving. I know this might become law soon, but until then, it's much easier, and safer, to respond to voice mail than to type a text message or e-mail. Just saying.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    I agree, to a point. Not sure if voice mail is dead versus regular phone use just decreasing as a primary communication tool. Less phone = less v/m. Email, DM, Text etc just seems to be more preferred in regular correspondence. 5 years ago I'd be on the phone all day. Now I can go all day and be on the phone very little but communicate with more people and get more done. I bet I spend more phone time on group conference calls than one-on-one phone calls lately. Not saying that SHOULD be the case as it's always nice to pick up the phone, but it happens. BTW… my 19 year old brother-in-law only has a data plan on his cell phone. No phone service, just data. He ONLY texts. Communication is changing.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    i use a mix of DM/Email/FB sometimes…or leave a message on their comments section…"Mike, are you there, Mike?"

    I've been known to pick up the phone(we actually still have a landline) and call people. I really did google chat and tokbox

  • http://www.kaylafinley.com Kayla

    I love texting. It's so much easier when you're trying to do other things or if you're in a situation where you don't want a whole room to overhear your conversation. For me, it makes phone calls seem even more personal- I am more willing to settle in and actually have a good conversation if I haven't been hassled by short, annoying calls all day.

    Voice messages are just plain annoying. I usually just call the person back without listening to it, and then delete the message right at the beginning.

  • http://chillingwithjeff.com Jeff Rebarcak

    I use Phone Tag. You can find them at http://www.phonetag.com. They transcribe the entire phone message so I can read it and respond. I haven't listened to a vm in months…I'm free! It has saved me so much time. I can read the message no mattter where I am or what I may be doing. If I choose to listen they send a link also. I rarely use that feature…but it's there if I need it.

  • http://www.gabetaviano.com Gabe Taviano

    The times are changin', that's for sure. The only place I leave voicemail is when I call a client or a business. With everyone I interact with, it's almost all with direct message on Twitter or email (or Facebook). Nice post!

  • http://www.thebanditproject.com JMK

    I agree, "leave a message after the beep"..seems to go the way of Saturday morning cartoons. Yet this is my latest experience. I have been trying to reach an executive by email for several weeks to no avail. After a series of "fetching emails' if i must say my self, I called, got the dreaded answering maching, left an impassioned plea and who'd a thunk it…got a call back…oh well.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lynse_Leanne Lynse_Leanne

    yes! I do not listen to my voicemails. I make that clear in my greeting….i say that the best way to reach me is to text or email me. But i may also be a little extreme because i will even ignore a phone call and text that person back.

  • http://SydrycalWorks.com Sidney

    On my best days past and present I have found that the old
    tried and true, yes-the smoke signal; is stilll quite the attention
    getter. My wife especially likes the heart shaped 0-rings, go figure!
    Sidney/SydrycalWorks

  • http://SydrycalWorks.com Sidney

    Oh, and –
    Great to have you back from afar. How much is a
    can of spaghettio's on the African continent. I rode
    an elephant once. It gave me wrinkles. Gray ones!
    Just started twittering. Great scott man! There are a
    lot of black birds out there wanting to spread their
    wings.
    Sidney/SydrycalWorks
    SydrycalWorks-my twitter(twitt me)

  • http://www.becomingsomething.com Natasha

    I was sent here by a blog commenter who let me know that I share your opinion on this. I don't even have a cell phone– I've rarely had a need for one and I'm holding out until I can afford an iPhone. So, I don't text message. And very few of my contacts are on Twitter. And my kid's school or the doctor's office isn't always going to email me. But still, I left a creative outgoing message on my voice mail, saying that we don't answer our voice mail anymore. I asked people to email me at voicemailslackers@gmail.com or to just… phone back! (You do know about Google Voice, right?) You can read my post and my creative outgoing message here: http://www.becomingsomething.com/2009/05/google-v

    Love this post.

  • http://www.becomingsomething.com Natasha

    Ah, yes. I see someone already commented about Google Voice. Figured as much but was too lazy to look. :-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dharrington dharrington

    Could not agree more. Most of the time a voice mail includes a phone number which means you have to write it down which means in my case I have to listen to it at least twice. Or the voice is garbled or spoken to quickly to get the number the first 5 times. Much simpler and easier to email, IM etc the message and you can call the number directly from the text.

  • Pingback: 5 tips for leaving a voicemail « Skedsheet Blog

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/zxxxt zxxxt

    On the other hand sending voicemails or voice messages has some advantages over texting. Its cheaper and easier to send over especially if you broadcast voice messages to several people. For example, sending a voice message using Onesuite cost only 2.5 cents but sending sms usually cost around 10 cents for prepaid mobile plans.

    What I'm trying to say is, voice mail isn't dead yet. It's here to stay for a few more years.

  • matthew

    I think many of you need to think deeply about your aversion to voicemail and/or phone usage and your strong preference for textual communication. Why you may wonder do I say this?

    Because there may be a psychological problem with you. Face to face communication is the fullest expression knowing that body language (non-verbal) consists of 70% of communication. The level of non-verbal cues degrade somewhat in a telephone conversation but the inflections in the voice still provide much more information over raw text.

    So those of you that prefer text (and probably short text messages with improper English) should question your inability or disinclination to communicate and bind with your fellow humans in the most revealing and meaningful way.

  • Michael of Montreal

    I disabled voice mail service on my land line to stop telemarketers and relatives from leaving needless messages. (Those in the latter group often left 3 messages within 20 minutes, "Call me", "I just called you" and "why have you not called me. Have I done something wrong?" I'm trying to re-train them.)
    It's exhilarating. Next step: cut the wired line altogether.

  • Cearun

    Phone Number Scan is a reverse phone search that can tell you who called and where they called from. If the same number calls you over and over again and they never leave a message you can look them up through Phone Number Scan and find out if it’s someone you know or a complete stranger.
    Visit to : http://bit.ly/gBQX8z

  • Pingback: Keeping Up With Communicating « Daniel Bell

  • Fucking Aborigine

    This is why I prefer snail mail, carrier pigeons and face to face communication rather than voicemail, because voicemail is so dry and impersonal. You can’t be as expressive in a noisy, rushed 30 second message as you can be with the former.