Saturday, July 5, 2008

TechCrunch says "VoiceMail is dead"; SBB says "maybe not"

The influential blog TechCrunch declared today that voice mail is "dead." The reason? Well, there are several, but it boils down to this:

- No one likes leaving messages and even fewer people like receiving them

- Voicemail is "outside of our typical workflow" (i.e. it requires a seperate "inbox" and isn't integrated with our computers)

- Reading an e-mail or text message is faster than listening to a voice mail

- If the point of a phone call is immediacy--as compared to e-mail, which is asynchronous--then leaving a voicemail becomes somewhat pointless

Now I'd be among the first to celebrate the desmise of the telephone. I screen calls at home, at work, and on my cell phone, and I pick up only when it's a client, a co-worker or someone whose call I'm expecting. If it were up to me, every conversation would happen over e-mail or IM, or face-to-face
. Not everyone, however, is so opposed to the phone, and e-mail has problems of its own. That means rumors of voicemail's death are greatly exaggerated.

However, if the celebratory tone in the comments to the TechCrunch post tell us anything, it's this: there's a lot of room for improvement with the messages we leave. People don't seem opposed to voicemail, itself, that is--but they are opposed to bad voicemail messages.

So how do you make your voicemail messages better, and more likely to elicit a response? Start with a few simple rules:

- If you're calling someone you know, all he needs is your name, a very, very brief reason you're calling (enough to have anything he needs in front of him when he calls back), and the best place to reach you.

- If you're calling someone you don't know, you have about 10 seconds (maybe less) to convince the recipient that they should listen to your message. Tell them the one most compelling reason they should care, leave contact information, and be done.

- Say your phone number s l o w l y. It will help to read it off a business card so you go through it a little more methodically.

- Offer your e-mail address instead if your subject can be discussed over e-mail. That way the recipient has a choice, and may be more likely to respond.

- Don't give too many details about your availability. Instead, include the one best day and time to return your call. No one can process "I'll be in the office Monday after 2, Tuesday between 3 and 5, all day Wed., and from 8 - 10 and 1:30 - 5 on Friday." "Please call me Wednesday--I'll be in the office all day" works just as well.

- Consider whether your message would be better as e-mail. It may be that you can't encapsulate what you need to say in writing. Or maybe you know there will be follow-up questions that you can answer right away. But if you're only calling because it's more convenient for you, think about whether that's truly the best way to communicate.

Remember, it's all about getting the person on the other end to respond. Say exactly what the recipient needs to know, and nothing more, and you might just get a call back. Say too much, or give the wrong information, however, and you might just help prove TechCrunch right.

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