Mon, November 9, 2015

Voicemail Still has a Voice

Since Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, technological advancements have been improving upon his original design. One of the phone’s most notable additions, the voicemail (introduced initially as the “answering machine”), has long been a staple of convenience for busy users, particularly in the business world. But, it seems as if the general usage of voicemail is on the decline and it’s a trend threatening to change the way business professionals have been communicating for more than 50 years.

But what exactly is causing this? How is voicemail conforming?

Why is Voicemail Changing?

Millennials aren’t using it. As young adults, they’ve grown up in a culture dominated by texting, with constant, direct messaging access to nearly anyone. Generally, they have minimal experience with, or desire for, leaving spoken messages over the phone. As millennials continue to enter the workforce, the business world is adapting to meet their needs — including providing alternative communication tools.

It’s not easily draftable. Leaving a voicemail is sometimes intimidating and often unplanned. On the spot, users try to quickly summarize their intended message and persuade the recipient to take some sort of action.

It’s not instantaneous. Leaving a voicemail tends to be easier on the sender than the recipient. Accessing one’s voicemail messages is usually a multi-step process that involves calling an auto-attendant, then entering a password before selecting from a menu of options to listen, save, delete, etc. Traditional voicemail systems aren’t known to be the fastest way to relay messages.

Staying Relevant

Regardless, as long as we continue to communicate verbally with each other, there will always be a need for voicemail. Usage of voicemail in the business world is still very much in play, and there is still a need for voicemail systems that play nice with other communication platforms. Luckily, adaptation is occurring and evident with the latest communications systems and tools.

Email integrations. The latest business voice systems are built with features that easily integrate with email systems. Most phone software allows users to view incoming or missed call information in their email inbox, where they can flag them for follow-up or choose whether to answer or ignore the call. Industry leading business voice system products from NEC, MiTel and Microsoft take it a step further, allowing voice messages to be received via email. When a caller leaves a message, the recipient receives the audio file attached to an email, which they can simply click to listen. Laptops, PCs and mobile phones are nearly always equipped to open and listen to these types of audio files, adding a layer of convenience and mobility to voice messaging. It is also less cumbersome than calling auto-attendant to retrieve messages. This is becoming an increasingly popular features for busy office workers whose primary form of communication is email.

Advancements in caller I.D. Most office phone systems are equipped with caller I.D. features, which means users know who is calling before answering or ignoring. The more advanced systems, like NEC’s Unified Communications (UC Desktop) system, allow users to check the status of all the phone users in the system. At a glance, users can decide how to direct callers based on if the other party is free, on the phone, in a meeting, or even on vacation. Callers can choose to postpone their call attempt until the person is available, thus reducing the chance of reaching their voicemail system. Also, the caller knows immediately if their call attempt will go directly to voicemail, allowing them to prep a voice message before they even dial.

Cellular technology. Mobile phone technology has had the biggest impact on the ways in which we communicate, and voicemail services are still very much expected/included with any cellular plan. NEC’s UC system allows for call forwarding to a mobile phone, which is particularly useful for professionals always on the move. Through mobile integrations and in the event of no answer, callers are automatically directed to the NEC voicemail box instead of the mobile phone’s associated voicemail. With the added ability to auto-receive audio files via email, managing your business phone and voice messages on-the-go is now easier than ever.

Voice communication providers are adapting. With all the integrations available, providers of voice systems have remained competitive with their products by incorporating textual based communication features. Instant messaging systems are in high demand (particularly among millennials) and some of the largest telephone products and companies include instant messaging capabilities and features in their offerings. NEC includes a quick instant messaging feature in their voice solution products. Microsoft recently introduced Skype for Business, which functions similarly to NEC and MiTel phone products. Speech-to-text is another mobile feature that is gaining ground, and it won’t be long before business phone systems follow suit.

While it may seem as if voicemail is on its way out, the truth is actually much more exciting. Just as radio has evolved to utilize more relevant formats like Pandora and satellite radio to meet listeners changing preferences, voicemail undergoing similar changes that will ensure its continued relevancy. After all, radio is still alive years after critics predicted its death. Voicemail is showing us that it has the same sort of resilience.

For more information on modernizing your voice communication system and utilizing voicemail effectively, contact us to learn more.