Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Don’t leave a message at the sound of tone

Posted by Ron Coleman on July 6, 2008

Michael Arrington:

[A]n increasing number of people are just plain avoiding voicemail (for my impromptu and unscientific survey, see the comments here, which are predominantly anti-voicemail). It takes much longer to listen to a message than read it. And voicemail is usually outside of our typical workflow, making it hard to forward or reply to easily.

Typical voicemail messages today include things like “Please don’t leave me a voicemail, I rarely listen to them. Please just email me at xxxx@xxxx.com” Many people don’t bother setting up their voicemail accounts at all. Then there’s my favorite method, the one I use personally – let the message box get full and then don’t empty it. Caller ID still tells me who called, and I can simply call them back.

How many times have you called someone back and said “I saw that you called but didn’t listen to the voicemail yet, Is it anything urgent?”

Senders often feel guilty for leaving voicemails, too. And to make sure you get the message, quite often people will follow up with a text message – “Just left you a VM, it’s important” – just so you know it’s there.

Yeah, don’t bother. If you have to reach me, voicemail is about 17th on the list after email, IM’ing, texting, emailing my wife, smoke signals, a Facebook poke and skywriting.

In the ’80’s we thought voicemail, the kind of mainfraim version of telephone answering machines that were the text-messaging of our college years, was cool. That got old fast, though. I remember being impressed when I worked for super-lawyer Ted Wells and finding out his voicemail was disabled. If you wanted to leave a message, you could leave it with his secretary. Awesome. This was about 15 years ago, and email hadn’t even become part of corporate life, but I already knew no one with anything better to do sat down tapping his feet scribbling down a message out of voicemail.

I never was able to get such privileges, although I did get to a point where my secretary’s job was to check my voicemail regularly and turn the message into an email … which doesn’t mean that’s always what happens, just that that was her job. I will stare at, or perhaps more accurately ignore, that little red light a long, long time if I have any semblance of an idea of what the message might be. In contrast, with my BlackBerry cellphone permanently attached to my hip, you’re likely to get a work email back from me within minutes, if not seconds, unless I really, really want to avoid you.

(This is not the same thing as wanting to actually be called up on my cell phone.  I do not want you to call me on my cell phone.  Have I mentioned email?)

Until I get it completely ripped out, though, all I can do is count on our receptionist (no direct dial number! yay!) to offer to take a message, and to allow “VM” through only with a disclaimer: “He doesn’t really check it.” Because I live in a hierarchical world, however, as long as it’s out there, it’s hanging over my head. That’s what Ted knew: Once someone leaves you a message, you’re “it.”

Sometimes the person leaving that voicemail is a judge. And when he makes you “it,” you’d better be aware.

But everyone else, don’t leave me a voicemail. Not if it matters whether I hear it.

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2 Responses to “Don’t leave a message at the sound of tone”

  1. Fiar said

    Hey, Ron. I just left you a voice mail. It was important.

    You’re it.

  2. […] Thank you, Bruce.  Why don’t most people realize that we may be interested in your message, but we don’t really want to hear about it? […]

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