I called Rogers, my connectivity gate (aka carrier), to ask them to remove my voicemail service. I never check it because the only people that leave me messages are people I don’t know or don’t care to know. The problem is that they can’t just drop the service because it is a throw-in with other, more important services like text messages and call display.
How quickly this has changed. Voicemail used to be the center of the communications world. It shows how voice is becoming less and less important and how much we loath interruptions in our day. Mobile habits – email and texting – have almost completely removed the need and demand for voice services with carriers actually starting to offer data-only services (finally).
This movement away from voice is no surprise – it’s been happening since the first connected device – but it does have far-reaching communications impact and it is not limited to the young. I text more with my mother and father than I spend on the phone with them. We are a generation of ICQ users (my mother lived in Bangladesh and Pakistan in a time when phone calls were just too expensive) and, as a result, communicate more often than the generation before us. My youngest brother is deaf and lived across the country in Vancouver and was isolated for years until he got an iPhone. Now we are that Apple commercial with my kids connecting with their uncle across the country, without voice.
Business, marketing and relationships all relied on voicemail and are now shifting away from it quicker than the dream of the fax did when email made the phone line obsolete. It won’t be long now until voicemail is no longer considered a convenience and more of an imposition.
Companies looking to succeed need to start looking at the unified inboxes that the likes of Facebook and Google and Apple and Microsoft and BlackBerry are creating. These communication hubs are a central source of all incoming and outgoing messages – be they text messages, voicemail, video voice or even simple voice memos – this is where the path leads. Goodbye unwanted interruptions (like the phone ringing) and hello recipient-controlled message repositories where messages can be responded to at will not at gun point.
From these central hubs comes incredible opportunity for smart software developers to build automation. Forget pre-written text messages, think SIRI-like responses in your own voice in real time. It’s like automated lip synching for productivity. At some point the cloud will be smart enough to “understand” a voicemail request and respond in a way that helps. For example, if a voice request comes in from a co-worker asking for a meeting, your phone could poll your contacts to see who this person is, understand they are talking about a meeting, check your calendar and confirm or reschedule on your behalf without your “real” participation. A simple example but one that demonstrates the potential of active messaging.
So now you know that I never listen to voicemail. I also don’t answer the phone if it comes up “unknown” or “unlisted” – do you? That’s poor form. Mobile has made it so much easier to connect and if you don’t recognize that voicemail and the telephone are no longer on the top of that list your relationships and your business are at risk.