Thursday, April 2, 2009

You’ve Got Voice Mail, but Do You Care? - Me? NO!

Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day at work for me. We are under a huge crunch time to get out 15 grants in under a month and I was literally in meetings (relevant ones) ALL DAY LONG. These were those type of meetings from which you really can't excuse yourself because they were multiple, fast, and furious. At the same time, there were three very important people with whom I needed to connect and each of them called into a phone I couldn't answer. During one particular conference call, I got disconnected and I thought the caller was calling me back, but instead, it was a call, to which I had to say to the caller, I'm sorry, but can you please email me? As I said that, and looked on my phone with seven voicemail messages, I found myself thinking, "You’ve Got Voice Mail, but Do You Care?" As I look at my phone again and see another crop of voice mails, I realize, the answer is, "NO!"

As the New York Times reports today, "In an age of instant information gratification, the burden of having to dial in to a mailbox, enter a passcode and sit through “um’s” and “ah’s” from unwanted callers can seem too much to bear." Agreed! Indeed! One caller and I literally exchanged a half dozen calls and meaningless voicemails (he never explained what his question was) back and fourth. We never connected, and I still don't know what he wanted. The three others whose calls I returned weren't available when I called and we missed an important deadline. I found myself frustrated that while all these callers left me a voicemail, what I really wanted was an email or text me. As Charlie Park, a web developer quoted in the Times said, “You never send an e-mail that says, ‘Hey, e-mail me back!’ You’re always sending information.” Yes! So true. Had they just sent me the information they wanted, I may have been able to steal a couple minutes during a lull in a meeting, or between meetings, or, certainly, rather than all the phone tagging I did, I could have been just typing answers back to questions they had that would have enabled us all to move forward.

Many, though are still stuck in the past when people like me had secretaries who were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to greet them with a pleasant hello, listen intently to their every word, scribe it down, and hurridly deliver it to me. Many of those secretaries today are obsolete as technologies such as email and text can do the same thing for free. The New York Times piece raises a similar question, "Is voice mail on its way to becoming obsolete?" For me, it is very close to extinction.

There are a number of services that have cropped up to assist with the issue, resulting from those who haven't moved forward with new technologies. These services provide voice to text transcription services, but they are expensive! Fortunately, as the Times reported, "Google, plans to introduce a competing free service, Google Voice, in a matter of weeks. The service will ring each phone a person uses at once — cell, home, office — and centralize all the messages received. Most important for the voice-mail-averse, Google Voice will also transcribe voice mails at no cost." Pier Fawkes, a trend tracker, shared in the article that “Voice mail feels like it was a technology that was created to fill a gap — until something better came along, and now it has.” "Text is the future of voice mail,” Mr. Fawkes said.

I really hope my colleagues read this article this morning, in either case, it's back to the game of phone tag. I wonder what it was they needed to know...

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