Voice Mail: Perhaps Archaic, Yet Still Needed

can phoneLate last year, Coca-Cola said it was eliminating voice mail at its headquarters in Atlanta. JPMorgan Chase announced last week that it was doing away with office voice mail for many of its employees. They tied their decision to tightening expense controls. They will save $10 per month per line.

Certainly, office voice mail is not the medium of choice for everyone. Millennial Amy Brown posted a popular joke on twitter on ways to get in touch with her: “1. text, 2. facebook chat, 3. tweet, 4. e-mail, …998. skywriting, 999. smoke signals, 1000. voice mail.” Text messaging, largely the domain of friends and families, is starting to be seen more in the professional realm. As millennials become the largest generation in the workforce, their habits are going to have a huge influence on workplace practices. Jena McGregor of the Washington Post puts it this way: “When it comes to voice mail, Millennials are pretty much over it, while their love affair with texting seems to know no bounds.”

Of course, I’m not a millennial. Heck, I remember when cell phones were the size of a brick and almost as heavy. I applaud the continual improvements in technology and try my best to understand and use them all. I recognize that voice mail is on the decline.

However, in my opinion, the form of communication shouldn’t be based on what’s easiest or less costly for me, but, more importantly, what works best for our clients and makes it easiest for them to get in touch and stay in touch with us.

We work with clients of all ages, some in their late 90s and some in their early 20s. Some older clients don’t own a computer, don’t use email, and certainly don’t text or tweet. Most of their communication is done by phone and they are quite comfortable leaving a voice mail if we’re on the other line or out of the office, knowing that they will likely get a call back in an hour or so.

Speaking personally, while I use email 80% or 90% of the time, there are certain times that I prefer using a phone. You can hear the other person’s voice and tone and usually a call offers more context. For me, it’s the next best thing to being there in person where you both can see reactions and observe body language. I use the phone for those who don’t use email, complex situations, very important topics and/or when I am concerned that an email message might not be understood or, worse yet, misunderstood.

It seems many companies have de facto given up on voice mail. These days, your call for help often results in the vendor trying to get you to their website (which is particularly annoying when your problem is that your internet service is down), putting you on hold for long stretches of time, asking you to call back later or just disconnecting you. Yes, I understand that it’s cheaper for a company to direct you to their website than have a fully staffed and trained customer service center.

But, again, the focus should be on customer service and adding value. As I mentioned in a DWM blog in March, Dr. Horst Schulze, one of the founders of the Ritz Carlton, offered his view on cost-cutting: “When we say it is deadly to cut costs that cheapen your product or service in ways that matter to your customer, we mean it.” Customers and clients are the lifeblood of any business. Excellent communication with them, using the medium or media appropriate for them is paramount.

Please be assured that we at DWM welcome your communication in any and all media. If you want to call, we’ll answer your call promptly. If we’re on the other line or out of the office, please leave a voice mail- we’ll get back to you shortly. We welcome the opportunity to stay connected.

And, if you have any thoughts or comments on this article or anything else, please contact us in your favorite medium: skywriting and smoke signals included.