The Beginning of the End of Voice Mail?

This past week I was delighted to hear from Daniel Huang, a Wall Street Journal reporter covering the banking sector, and honoured to be included in his report on the elimination of voice mail by several major U.S. banks. 

Coca Cola made the same move at the end of 2014 (And in Ottawa, the Canadian federal government has begun pulling out landlines, replacing them with cellphones through an agreement with Rogers Communications Inc.)

This is just a glimmer of what’s ahead in terms of phone communication.

At J.P. Morgan Chase & Co’s consumer and community banking unit, voice mail is currently being removed from employees who don’t deal directly with clients, such as those in operations or technology. The plan is to save $3.2 million a year  by not incurring the $10 per month per employee cost of voice mail. When a phone is unanswered there will be a generic message such as “You have reached J.P. Morgan Chase; the person you are trying to reach is unavailable to take your call. Please try your call later.” Employees will be encouraged to use email, texting and cellphones.

Here are some of the questions that arise for me:

1) While it has been awhile since I’ve worked in a big corporation, I do remember the importance of communicating with the technology department. Without voice mail, will some issues go “unheard” for too long? Or will tech staff be left to juggle more email, text messages and cellphone calls than are reasonable – or even humanly possible?

2) If staff without voice mail are available by cellphone, are they going to slowly end up working more hours, i.e. the tech person in Boston is now available to the San Francisco office at 3 pm Pacific Time?

3) There can be so many “gaps” in email and text communication, so much room for either misinterpretation or misunderstanding. In my own world, clarity has often been achieved through the tone of voice and explanation left in voice mail. Without this, will some issues require more time to resolve? Will some issues never get resolved? And will some small issues fester into large issues due to inadequate communication?

4) When we eliminate one avenue of communication, what is the true impact over time? Obviously there is an immediate monetary saving, but are there losses in the long-term that will cost more than those savings?

What questions arise for you? What is your reaction to the elimination of voice mail? These aren’t isolated incidents. This is a trend worth thinking about, discussing and watching. I’m very interested to hear your thoughts.

Enjoy your phonework everyone!

10 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End of Voice Mail?”

  1. Voicemail… intentional voicemail is very powerful. Call someone when you know they will not answer their landline and leave some genuine recognition and appreciation for the person. 9 times out of 10, they save the voicemail, listen to it over and over again… and even save it a second time when it is about to get automatically deleted from the system. No voicemail might save $10 a month but it takes away a simple and very cost effective way to make people feel valued and appreciated.

    • Wow, Steve, this is not something I would have ever thought about, but I have several friends that have saved voice mail messages from me for years. Thanks so much for sharing this here. I think it is a great example of what we can lose when we eliminate an avenue of communication.

    • Good to hear this, Calvin. I know you provide internal tech support so I appreciate your comment and indicating that voice mail is valuable to your team.

  2. There are times when I’ve got my head buried in a project with a deadline looming that I just can’t break to answer the phone. For a caller to be told to just try again… well, it just wouldn’t work. I need my voicemail.

    • I believe that to be true, Linda. As I work with more and more people under 30, there is a definite resistance to voice mail. It will be interesting to see where this will take us and how those of us that rely on voice mail will embrace upcoming changes.

  3. Over the years businesspeople have ridden many communication bandwagons.

    * Smoke signals, pony express, traditional mail, telegraph, telephone, secretary, receptionist, telex, answering machine, e-mail, social media, voicemail, robo-call, auto-attendant … some a god-send, others simply the newest way to ignore each other.

    And now … the newest bandwagon, it would appear … is the END of voicemail. Really??? Thankfully you can’t see my eyes rolling. I do not doubt the trend’s veracity for a moment. I respect the source too much. However, communication technologies and staff are less about the medium and more about how we choose to use it.

    Bottom line … if smoke signals are the most efficient, convenient and courteous way for my customers and prospective customers to reach me, and me them … for my suppliers and prospective suppliers to keep me apprised of the newest options and opportunities … then smoke signals it will be. If I choose to retain my voicemail for the convenience of my customers, prospects and suppliers then voicemail it will be.

    Clearly communication bandwagons have come and gone as they will continue to come and go. The communication medium I choose is the one that best respects my customers and suppliers and my future customers and suppliers. Neither voicemail nor its absence will ever change that.

    • You are so right, Peter. Lots of trends and lots of change and the bottom line remains the same … how can we best communicate with each other.


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