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“Am I Talking Into A Black Hole?”

About a year ago, I stopped leaving my daughter voicemail messages on her cell phone. It had become quite apparent that she never listened to them. Instead, she simply noticed that she had a missed call from me, and she called back.

So, I wasn’t surprised to see an article on USA Today’s online edition about the decline of voicemail usage. Vonage, an online telephone company, released a survey about voicemail usage. The number of voicemails being left on Vonage user accounts is down about 8% from a year ago, and people are listening to voicemails that are left for them less often, 14% less than a year ago to be exact.

PCMAG.com picked up on the story and in a post asking, “Is Voicemail Dead?” asked readers to take a survey. So far, survey results show 23% of respondents leave messages quite often, 47% not that much, and 27% never.

Voicemail is a victim of advances in technology. Texting and IMing are replacing voicemail messages. And my daughter’s object lesson showed me that it’s easier to notice a missed call and simply call back—“Hi, dad. What’s up?”—and have me explain “in person” what I wanted than it is to listen to my message on her voicemail. She chooses the path of least resistance and instant gratification. That’s the underlying reason for the demise of voicemail. And it works. In fact, so well that I’ve been trained not to leave a message that will never be heard.

All this got me thinking about business voicemail. Is it succumbing to the same fate? Certainly, by the number of messages left on my phone, I can say people are leaving fewer business voicemail messages, but people do still leave them. Effective messages have several key components:

  • Before you call, take a moment to think about what you will say if you are greeted with voicemail. Your message will be more succinct, and you will sound more professional.
  • Speak clearly and slow down.
  • Start by identifying yourself, your company your phone number, then add a brief one or two sentence purpose for your call.
  • End by repeating your phone number s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly.

On the recipient’s side of the message:

  • Listen to your messages; don’t ignore them.
  • Reply as quickly as possible, even if it’s only to let the caller know you received the message and will get back to him later.
  • When I am on the road and in a place where making a call is inappropriate, I respond via text message or email to a voicemail.

Finally, think carefully about whom you are communicating with and what their preferred means of receiving communications from you is. I know some people who respond much more quickly to me if I email them, others if I text them, and still others if I call and, if needed, leave a voicemail.

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