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The Death of Voicemail

Posted by David Lover on Nov 13, 2018 10:00:00 AM

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For years, I have been asked about the death of voicemail. It started at the end of 2014 with Coca-Cola’s announcement that it was disconnecting voicemail, which was followed by similar announcements from companies like JPMorgan Chase. What ended up happening in most cases? The companies didn’t actually completely get rid of voicemail, but they did experiment with eliminating it for certain users or groups of users.

I have mixed reactions on the status of voicemail. Personally, I hate voicemail, and I don’t check it often. If it didn’t get delivered to my email inbox, I’d never check it at all. I also rarely leave voice messages for anyone. I use voice when I need to talk to someone ASAP and don’t know their preferred method of communication. But even then, I‘m usually looking to get an answer to a question that multiple people might know the answer to, so if my call goes to voicemail, I generally hang up and try someone else.

However, it’s important not to think about these things too ego-centrically. The rest of the world does not operate exactly as I do. I’ve talked to a lot of customers about their opinion on this topic. Regardless of their personal feelings about voicemail, they all say that the business they serve demands these kinds of legacy features. Why? Think of the differences between informal and formal communications. Informal communication might be more “personal” in nature. By personal, I mean that the caller knows who they are trying to reach and what the communication preferences are for that person. The caller also has the flexibility to reach out to multiple people in the case that any one person is unavailable.

Formal communication, on the other hand, tends to require more closed-loop aspects to the call. A lot of the time, these kinds of calls are a statically defined component to a business process. I also may not be reaching out to a particular person. Instead, I may be reaching out for a skill. I may not know anything about the person I’m calling, in which case I would not know their preferences or availability. These formal calls need a conclusion—a defined path to resolution. They need “coverage.”

Session Coverage Makes Communication Business-Ready

This idea of “coverage” becomes a very important piece of this conversation. Communication endpoints can’t participate in business workflows if there is no way to handle an endpoint being offline. For the phone, most people use voicemail as point of call coverage. Voicemail answers the phone when the user doesn’t. While voicemail could go away, “coverage” can’t. The trick is to realize that coverage can be other things besides plain old voicemail.

Interestingly, we’re seeing other forms of communication become “business-ready” once they are given session coverage options. For instance, instant messaging is wildly popular, but it’s really only usable in a business setting when you are able to support the concept of “persistent chat.” This is a feature that allows you to start a chat on one device, continue it on another, and even receive chats when a user does not have devices currently registered or logged in. Persistent chat adds session coverage for instant messaging. It lets you include teammates in workflows even when they are offline. That is what validates it for enterprise use.

Augmenting Voicemail with Mutare’s SAM

Applying session coverage to the concept of voicemail, a very interesting product on the market is Mutare’s SAM (Smart Assist by Mutare). Mutare says it allows you to get rid of voicemail, and in the literal sense, it does—but it doesn’t get rid of the idea of coverage. It replaces voicemail with something that notifies users of their covered sessions in a more efficient manner that aligns with their preferences. With SAM, the communication system (e.g., PBX) takes the incoming call and determines when it should initiate coverage (e.g., ring three times, then go to the next coverage point). Instead of sending the call to traditional voicemail, SAM records the voice message, transcribes it, sends both the voice message and transcription to the user via an email or text, and then deletes the original recording. Mutare doesn’t have to worry about voicemail storage since the SMS receiver or the email server is technically storing it.

What’s really cool about SAM is that it has the ability to collect relevant information about the caller—as defined by the user—and attach it to the email or text. Want SAM to look up the caller in Microsoft CRM and grab relevant information? It can do that! How about in ServiceNow, Salesforce.com, or LDAP? Absolutely! Collecting and providing augmented data to accompany a “voicemail” is something I’ve felt strongly about for a long time. Most people don’t answer their phone when they don’t recognize the Caller ID. They will be so much more willing to respond quickly when they know more than just the limited information typically provided about the caller.

Voicemail: Time to Call It Quits?

Let’s return to the original question. Is voicemail dead? No. Not yet. But I do think it is dying in the same way the hard telephone is dying. Which means it really isn’t dying. Instead, it is changing. While the physical nature of a telephone is absolutely changing (soft clients, mobile devices, etc.), voice is still a valid and popular form of communication. Are there other valid and popular forms of communication? Absolutely. Are we going to see more and more people choosing not to deploy voicemail to their users? Definitely. Will the concept of voicemail change? Certainly. It already has. But if you think about it in terms of session coverage, no matter what the actual product is or looks like, the concept is absolutely here to stay.
 


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Topics: Unified Communications, Voicemail


 

David Lover
David Lover  -- David is a leader in our Office of the CTO and works with every part of the business. From Sales to Professional Services, from senior leadership to end-users, from overall business strategy to nuts and bolts technical understanding, his skills at identifying, articulating, and managing our strategic technology direction to customers, partners, and employees sets ConvergeOne apart as a leader in our industry. David is a former Senior Engineer at Lucent Technologies and Avaya and has applied communications technologies in a business environment for large Fortune 500 and Enterprise multi-site corporations. David is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and presenter at numerous industry conferences, forums, and seminars across the United States. He has built tremendous, strategic relationships with analysts and manufacturers alike, insuring relevancy and the best possible “future state” outcome for ConvergeOne and its customers.