Monday, December 22, 2008

The Death of Corporate Voicemail?

Is corporate voicemail on it’s last dying breadth, heading for the same fate as those pink “while you were out” message slips that used to pile up on our desks?

Eastman Kodak Co., which has been remaking itself from a film-based to a digital-based imaging company, now is also trying to reinvent itself as a voicemail-less workplace.

The Rochester area’s third-largest employer plans to do away with its voicemail system. In a memo sent to employees this week, Kodak indicated it will flip the switch shutting off its employee voicemail on Dec. 31, as the company’s current voicemail contract expires.

"We found in this era of BlackBerrys and cell phones, a fair number of employees don’t even use the KMX (voicemail) system,” said company spokeswoman Barbara Pierce. “I heard three people today say, ‘oh good, I never used it.'

"The cut also is a cost-saving step, according to the memo signed by Kim VanGelder, chief information officer.

Kodak uses a variety of suppliers for its current voicemail system, including Nortel Networks Corp.’s Call Pilot and Meridian.

For Kodak employees who rely on voicemail, Pierce said the company’s IT department is working on creating an alternative.

Is this announcement the start of a communications trend? Or is it just another creative cost-cutting move gone too far? After all, this is the same company that just announced the end of their employee 401K match. Hopefully that’s not a new trend as well.

It was only a few years ago that voicemail was the preferred method of corporate communication. If you didn’t check it every few hours (daily when on vacation), and clear out the 100 or so messages, you’d soon have a full mailbox.

Now, while the same is true for email, voice mail messages are few and far between, mostly from cold calling salespeople that don’t have your email address yet.

Have you ever called someone, then, as you were about to be put into voicemail, hung up, and wrote an email instead? Why leave an unrehearsed, rambling voice message that no one is going to check on and can be deleted before you finish, when you can leave a poetic email laced with hyperlinks and three fat attachments?

Kids rarely leave or check their cell phone voicemails – if you want to get hold of a teenager, you’d better learn to text message.

In fact, more and more companies are introducing Instant Messaging (IM) to their employees, along with the usual warnings and threats about IM abuse. Are you one of the ones trying to prevent your company from installing IM? Hey, weren’t you the same guy who fought against voicemail because you said people needed to get hold of a “live” person? Well congratulations, it looks like you were right on that one.

When I talk to sales managers, they tell me the best way to reach them in order of preference is:
1. Instant Message
2. Cell phone call
3. Email (which they only check once per day)
Notice calling on their company extension didn’t even make the list. So I’d have to assume a voice left on same would fall into a black hole.

So if you think voice mail is dying, press one. If you think it’s just another way for companies to cut costs, press two. To return to the main menu, press zero.


Erik Dreyer said...


Voicemail has been imprisoned and disrespected for too long. We let it do our dirty work "Oh its him, let voicemail get it", and then neglect it. For callers, voicemail has been a consolation prize. For people being called, it has been both an escape and a chore. is making voice messages fun again. Now you can send voice messages to anybody with an email address, at any time. Voicebeep frees voice messages from ties to voice prompts, answering machines and area codes.

So, while corporate voicemail as we once knew it may be fading into the background, the power of voice messages to enhance productivity in the workplace is only just beginning to be shown.

Try saying something useful to your team using, and see what happens.

Dan McCarthy said...

Erik -

OK, I'll give you a free product plug. Thanks for stopping by!

Rachel - I Hate HR said...

How much money does it really cost? I've hung up at people's voicemails but I don't think email is a total replacement. How many times have you sent an email only to have it disappear into filter land.

Dan McCarthy said...

Rachel -
good point - if you don't want to talk to someone,it doesn't matter.

Evil HR Lady said...

You know, I spent Christmas in Rochester with a couple of former Kodak employees. This was a hot topic of discussion. (Yes, aren't you glad you weren't invited to our Christmas festivities?)

My gut instinct says that if Kodak is doing it, it's a bad idea. In addition to cutting voicemail, they also bought a new jet. Methinks priorities are a bit off over there.

Dan McCarthy said...

Evil one -
Be glad to buy you a coffee next time you're in Rochester!

jonathan said...

Checking voicemail is a standard tactic of customer service inspectors in the UK public sector.

If your voicemail that customers hear gives details of your last years holiday opening hours - then it obviously doesn't reflect too well...

Evil HR Lady said...

Awesome! I don't actually drink coffee, but I'll hit you up for hot chocolate.