Do you still get your voice mail messages by listening to them? That's so last century.
Internet phone company Vonage has analyzed its usage data, and finds that checking voicemail by the old-fashioned way of actually listening dropped 14 percent among its users, compared with a year ago. The data, prepared for USA Today, also indicated that the number of voicemail messages left was down by 8 percent in July, year-over-year. Apparently, according to these stats, some messages are left but never retrieved.
'Not Here Right Now...'
Michael Tempora, senior vice president of product management at Vonage, told news media that users "hate the whole voicemail introduction, prompts, having to listen to them in chronological order."
In this age of doing-more-faster, one of the cultural vestiges of what now appears to have been a more time-luxurious age is the outgoing voicemail instruction. Even though zillions of phone callers have left zillions of messages over the years, it is still common to hear, "I'm away from my desk right now and can't get to the phone," along with brief instructions as to what to do.
Perhaps such instructions are useful for those who just arrived on Planet Earth, but actual Earthlings undoubtedly are genetically programmed by now to know the routine.
To accommodate quicker access and message retrieval, Vonage offers a service that is becoming increasingly popular throughout the industry -- a voicemail transcription service that converts voice message to text, and delivers them as e-mail or text messages.
The Vonage service also provides a link to the original voicemail in audio form, so users can immediately go to that message. Vonage's Tempora noted that, while voice transcription isn't completely accurate, the basic message is communicated, and the somewhat lesser accuracy is a worthwhile tradeoff -- especially since a user can quickly go to the original message.
'Become a Nuisance'
The time to access and obtain a message's information appears to be the key factor. Younger users, for whom faster is usually better, appear to be less-frequent users of voice mail, preferring texting and chatting. For the phone companies, the decline of voice is a key driver behind its increase in the number of voice minutes available in their plans.
Brad Shimmin, a social media analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said that, for him and others, "voicemail has become a nuisance" because of the time involved to set up the service and to retrieve messages.
His personal preference, he said, is to receive a text of the message, even though the transcription quality is "hit or miss." Shimmin admitted that he sometimes has to "go back into voicemail" to fully understand a message. He also acknowledged that a textual transcription, even when accurate, lacks the "subtle inflections in a voice message," and that voice can sometimes adequately convey a message in sentence fragments, while a text cannot.
Nevertheless, Shimmin predicted that voicemail will continue its decline as a retrieval method, even while the act of leaving a voice mail -- still the easiest way of initiating a message for many people -- could remain viable, particularly with the growth of voice interaction for smartphones, such as Apple's Siri agent.