Companies Disconnect Voice Mail

By Aliah D. Wright Jan 28, 2016
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“Leave a messa​​​ge after the tone” is a phrase you won’t be hearing at Coca-Cola anymore. Or at JPMorgan Chase. Or at a number of other businesses, as more and more companies abandon voice mail, experts say, to save money and increase productivity.

Verizon reports that only a third of office phones now have voice mail. That’s because people are simply opting not to leave a message after the beep.

Little wonder.

Many Millennials—who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, will make up 50 percent of the American workplace in just four years—are afraid of it. That’s according to etiquette expert and author Mary Mitchell, who wrote a how-to article for Reuters on the proper ways to leave a voice mail, which include identifying yourself as soon as possible and speaking clearly and slowly—especially when leaving your telephone number. The New York Times reported last June, Internet phone company Vonage began seeing a steep drop in people retrieving their voice mail messages between 2013 and 2014.

Coca-Cola hung up on voice mail at its headquarters in Atlanta in December. If you call the global soft-drink retailer, you may be placed on hold repeatedly before a recorded message tells you to call back later or to use “an alternative method” to reach someone.

Bloomberg Business reported that its Chief Information Officer Ed Steinike told employees the company was cancelling voice mail service “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity.”

An Easy Way to Save Money?

In an interview with NPR, JPMorgan Chase’s Managing Director of Communications Trish Wexler said the company got rid of voice mail in order to save money. Total savings? More than $8 million annually. The cost was $10 per person each month. Employees were polled before it was eliminated.

“People started raising their hands. They started volunteering, ‘Please take my voice mail away. It’s annoying. It’s redundant. I never use it anymore,’ ” she told NPR. founder Jessica Miller-Merrell, SHRM-SCP, told SHRM Online, via an interview conducted on Facebook, “My [work] voice mail actually tells people to e-mail or text and that I don't listen to them.” On her blog she wrote recently that “the challenge with mobile is that we are always available, [yet]… we are empowered not to answer the phone.”

How about transforming voice mails into a readable format? Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, said his company’s service“replaces voice mail with an intelligent answering service, much like having an automated personal assistant.” It digitizes voice mails and turns them into readable text messages or e-mails. “We have well over 7 million users and have handled over 5 billion missed calls,” he said of his nine-year-old Irvine, Calif.-based company.

“We see some companies eliminating voice mail on their landlines—but the main reason is that people aren’t using their landlines anymore,” Quilici added. For example, “the sales teams, the field reps, etc., only use the landlines for outbound calling from the office when they have lousy cellphone coverage.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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