It takes much longer to listen to a message than read it. And voicemail is usually outside of our typical workflow, making it hard to forward or reply to easily.
Typical voicemail messages today include things like “Please don’t leave me a voicemail, I rarely listen to them. Please just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org” Many people don’t bother setting up their voicemail accounts at all. Then there’s my favorite method, the one I use personally – let the message box get full and then don’t empty it. Caller ID still tells me who called, and I can simply call them back.
How many times have you called someone back and said “I saw that you called but didn’t listen to the voicemail yet, Is it anything urgent?”
Arrington is on to something here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve skipped listening to messages from certain people who shall never be named here because of their predictable messages. All they’re really saying? Call me back.
Arrington mentioned one service called GrandCentral (recently acquired by Google) which is making voicemail more useful. I’ve played around with the service a bit and it is really cool (and free). Slate has written a piece on the service that lays out my favorite features:
It screens calls with ruthless efficiency, forcing anyone whom it can’t identify (through caller ID and your address book, which it can import from Microsoft Outlook or Gmail) to say who they are. It then tells you who’s calling so you can decide if you want to answer. GrandCentral also blocks calls from known phone spammers; it can even play an uncannily realistic “you have reached a number that has been disconnected” recording for telemarketers or folks you just plain don’t like.
Despite the fact that services like these can make voicemail more bearable, I still think the days of voicemail are numbered. Maybe I’ll start a Facebook group to help move things along.