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It's Time for Voicemail to Join Fax at the Obsolescence Corral

Why does technology drive us crazy? Maybe, in part, it's because while we constantly get new sources of input and information, the old systems take so long to fade away.

broken phone 

(Photo Credit: solarbotics/Flickr)

Take voicemail. On HBR Blog Network, Michael Schrage makes a good case for why it's time for voicemail to disappear.

"Who writes with fountain pens?" he asks. "When did you last prepare transparencies or exchange faxes? RIM? RIP. Sic transit gloria mundi. When once-innovative technologies descend -- decay? -- into anachronism, it's time to put them out of your misery. Disconnect enterprise voicemail. Now. Be honest -- you don't really want to leave a 90-second message after the beep and you certainly don't care to listen to one. You've got faster, better and friendlier ways to communicate."

Need proof? Think about the following.

1. No one's leaving voicemails.

As Schrage points out, even Vonage is reporting an 8 percent decline in voicemail usage last year.

2. Even fewer people are picking them up.

More significantly, they also reported a 14 percent drop in people picking up their voicemail. So now you know you're right: no one is listening to your messages. Technologies like texting, visual voicemail, and caller ID logs make voicemail more of a nuisance than a useful tool.

As Caity Weaver writes at Gawker, "If cellphone users are Jacob Marley, voicemails are our chains, forged link by link, call by unanswered call. You would do anything to erase the voicemail icon off your home screen, except listen to the voicemails."

3. The people who are forced to use it -- customers -- are frustrated by it.

"For most organizations, the only people who matter going into voicemail are customers and clients!" Schrage writes. "How smart and customer-centric is that?! Not very. Voicemail's technical flaws and shortcomings reveal something very important about the customer engagement future."

In other words, the old argument that you need voicemail because a client might want to use it is fast becoming outdated. There's nothing more annoying than going to voicemail. (Unless maybe it's scrolling through your messages, just to get rid of that evil icon.)

Tell Us What You Think

Which outdated technology would you like to see the last of? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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