Voicemail is dead

For the first time in a while I checked my voicemail on my phone last week. I was somewhat surprised to discover 70 unlistened to voicemails. Ten years ago I can guarantee that I’d have been fired somewhere around the 22 voicemail mark. Keeping on top of the voicemail box used to be a part of life. It seems to me that is no longer true. The only people who regularly call me on the phone are trying to sell me something I don’t want anyway so what’s the point.

For many of us the idea of even leaving a voicemail is becoming odd. Partly because we all know how awkward getting any useful data out of a voicemail is, and mainly because we increasingly don’t make a phone call until we know the other person is available and ready to take a call.

How often do we simply pick up the phone and dial a number? Most of us send a text first, even have a whole text conversation before going to a phone, or increasingly a video call. It’s even interesting to consider that Apple continues to use the word Phone to describe it’s hand held supercomputer, while all the other players now call it something, anything other than a phone.

With 50% of the workforce about to be millennials this shift in the way we work is becoming ever more pronounced. 87% of millennials say they expect the work environment to adapt to the way they want to work rather than being forced to used old and outdated technologies and processes. That might well strike Generation Xer’s as unreasonable but in a world desperate to attract the best talent it’s also a reality.

Millennials have grown up in a world of video communications. The idea of sitting staring into the middle distance while a low quality, disembodied voice, speaks to them out of a box in the middle of the table seems (rightly) absurd. One of the reasons this sort of technology has persisted is the cost of doing anything else.

Even today hardware based video conferencing solutions easily cost $5,000 and quickly reach $25,000 when special features and support services are required. Deploying these in sufficient numbers to make them useful has been beyond the means of most organizations.

The good news is that expensive video conferencing is also dying.  Software solutions are eating at the legacy market, and now high-quality, end-to-end video conferencing is readily available for less than $2,000. A few examples include Zoom; BlueJeans; Starleaf and Pexip coupled with devices such as Logitech Conference Cam all have solutions well under $2,000.

In real terms these solutions are about the same price that the conference phones were 20 years ago when they proliferated so quickly throughout the business world. As the price continues to drop, and the ease of use continues to increase it is interesting to see that we appear to be right on the cusp of the tipping point of mass deployment. It will be a most interesting market to watch over the next few years.

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