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Call Me Maybe: A Millennial Perspective on the Decline of Voicemail


July 28, 2014

Call Me Maybe: A Millennial Perspective on the Decline of Voicemail

Home > Blog > Call Me Maybe: A Millennial Perspective on the Decline of Voicemail

The New York Times recently reported that millennials are using voicemail less (in other news, water is wet). What’s really interesting about the article is that it pins the decline of voicemail squarely on Gen Y: “Teenagers are texting more…and calling far less on their cellphones than they used to. Those who make daily landline calls to friends have become nearly extinct: 14 percent as compared with 30 percent in 2009.”

Every other article on millennials says the same thing: anyone age 18-34 is enamored with text and social media. In general, we never make calls unless they’re really urgent, and even if we do, there’s a good chance no one will answer. According to the Times, leaving voicemails is a herculean task due to the lack of “formative experience leaving spoken or relayed messages over the phone.”

While it’s true that millennials are using the traditional phone less, so is the rest of America. A Vonage study shows that voicemail deposits dropped 8% between October 2013 and April 2014 (coincidentally, age brackets not included). The amount of people actually listening to voicemails fell 14% in that six month period.

There aren’t a lot more stone cold facts on the fall of voicemail, but there are some solid trends you can pick up on just by talking to a few friends:

  • A lot of people don’t expect their voicemails to be listened to, partly because they aren’t even listening to their own messages.

  • Most people call back instead of listening to messages, figuring the call itself was a big enough sign that they should call back.

  • A decent amount of messages have gone unheard (I’ve got 12 on my phone. Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

If The New York Times wants to assign blame for the fall of voicemail, there’s a prime suspect: text messaging. Now, I know what you’re thinking: millennials were early adopters, they’re digital natives, and they send twice as many texts as anyone else. That’s totally true.

Really, really true.

We love to text, probably way more than most. But just like voicemail, our increasing use of text echoes a larger trend in America. Pew Research reports that texting was the top activity of 2013, with 81% of people 18 and older using their phone to text. The average person also makes three calls and receives three calls a day, compared to 20-30 texts.

Texting has become popular because it’s shorter and faster, but also because it gets the same message across with a lot less effort. (It’s already pretty minimal effort to begin with, but I digress). When you get a voicemail, you have to enter your pin, open it and listen to it to find out what the call is about, then decide whether to call back or not. That is, if you ever check it at all: 37% of people hardly or never bother to check. Texts, on the other hand, send quickly and have a near immediate response time (unless you’re looking up cat pictures on your phone).

Even with texting on the rise, there’s still something to be said for voice communication. Over 50% of customers call turn to live agents in a contact center when they can’t figure their problem out with the help of technology. Why? Because that’s what they’re used to. The point here different customers prefer different communication channels. (You can read more about that here: I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really, Really Want.)

Traditional phone and voicemail had their day in the sun, but now texting is casting a pretty large shadow. Still, who’s to say the two can’t coexist? When you can combine the familiarity of voice with the reach of text, you’ve got something really powerful. That’s what we’re going for here at OneReach.

Interested in learning more? Check out these other articles:

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