When I talk to people about the voice and audio tech space, I occasionally get some skeptical responses. Some are valid concerns, such as wondering whether audio-first social networks like Clubhouse will survive post-pandemic when we can meet IRL again. But one that grinds my gears as a voice entrepreneur is the idea that voice messaging is just a rehashing of voicemail. I get why people might make the comparison since voice messaging is a new thing and voicemail is one of the only reference points we have as a society. However, this way of thinking misses the key values of voice messaging.
Voicemail takes effort, voice messaging is simple
Getting into your voicemail is a near Herculean effort. You have to call your own number (a weird thing for most people these days), wait for the tone, punch in a pin number, then dial any additional codes necessary to hear your messages. If you’re smart, you memorized the process. Pin is 1234, then hit 11 to hear new messages immediately. Then sigh while the automatic bot tells you that your new messages are, indeed, new. Finally, you can listen to the dang voicemail.
Do you really want to live like this?
It’s inefficient and asks way too much for such a simple and transactional outcome. Some phone companies innovated on this model by offering voice-to-text voicemail where you receive an SMS text with a readout of the voicemail. However, the transcription sucks so you’re left wondering what that person said about ____________. Respond when you get the chance, though.
Voicemail notifications are a nightmare, voice messaging is just like texting
It feels like voicemail notifications never go away. It’s a constant distraction, again for such a limited value transactional outcome. And you can’t turn them off either, since in most phones they are considered essential notifications.
Then you have the other problem: anyone can leave you a voicemail. Anyone. If they have your number, they can leave you a voicemail if you don’t pick up the phone. With that fact in mind, it’s easy to understand why voicemail has become a spam safe haven. And why wouldn't it? You almost can’t blame the spammers. They are just leveraging a huge gap left wide open in our communication lines today. Jokes aside about how annoying this is, it’s also wildly dangerous. Scammers are getting good, and taking advantage of people constantly. It’s atrocious.
People work hard to keep their numbers private for this precise reason, and some are successful at it. But even people who manage to keep their numbers private have a hard time gleaning any insight from voicemails. Because transcription sucks, you often have to go in and listen to the whole message anyway. Unfortunately, this just wastes even more time as you listen to someone mumble through an introduction, reason for calling, leaving a callback number, repeating the callback number, and ending with an awkward sign off.
This is one of the reasons we built Yac with natural language processing for transcription and an app structure that doesn’t require you to leave a callback number or awkward sign off. You just need to say your message and send it to the person you’re communicating with. Then you can move on with your life.
Voicemail is an afterthought, voice messaging is proactive
Perhaps the biggest difference between voicemail and voice messaging is one of intention. Voicemail is the frustrated message you leave when someone doesn’t pick up the phone. It’s also almost never good news, since good news these days is sent via text, email, or a voice message. Voicemail is the afterthought (or the scapegoat for bad news you really don’t want to share in realtime).
Voice messaging, on the other hand, is proactive. Like texting, voice messaging is done with intent. You know what you want to say or the information you want to ask for, so you send a note to the other person (or group of people) and wait for their reply. Not only does this give people way more freedom to think on things before responding, voice messaging is way more inclusive for people who have different work styles or any disability that makes navigating the voicemail process more difficult than it already is.
No more voicemail
Voicemail is a primitive communication technology carried into mobile phones from the dial tone phone era. Phone companies haven’t bothered to upgrade it because it’s a cash cow from people who still think it’s valuable (even if just for nostalgia). But anyone who wants to truly communicate with someone using voice needs to give voice messaging a try. It’s an intentional way to let someone respond on their own time, not an afterthought because you couldn’t get a hold of someone. And if you do need to book a call after a few voice messages back and forth, you know they’ll actually pick up.