clock menu more-arrow no yes

Voicemail is terrible. Let’s get rid of it.

"I HAVE VERY STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT VOICEMAIL THAT I WILL LEAVE YOU IN A VOICEMAIL," says this guy, probably.
"I HAVE VERY STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT VOICEMAIL THAT I WILL LEAVE YOU IN A VOICEMAIL," says this guy, probably.
(Shutterstock)

I have a phone here at my desk at Vox. It's great! I use it, as you might expect, to call sources and have great conversations and report the many stories I write here.

The one feature of my phone I absolutely hate, however, is voicemail. I never check it, and have left a clear message for callers noting that my inbox is a deep, dark abyss. I leave my email address as a better way to reach me instead.

This made it all the more heartening to learn that JPMorgan has decided to take this approach companywide. Via the Wall Street Journal:

Gordon Smith, the bank’s consumer chief, said at a financial conference Tuesday that the $10-per-month service per person has become obsolete for many at the bank. "We realized that hardly anyone uses voicemail anymore…we’re all carrying something in our pockets that’s going to get texts or e-mail or a phone call to you," he said.

This action by the New York bank run by Chairman and CEO James Dimon continues efforts to cut the consumer and community unit’s expenses by $2 billion by 2017, which Mr. Smith laid out during an investor presentation the bank made in February.

The unit is in the process of cutting landline voicemail for employees who are not client-facing, such as operations or technology, a spokeswoman said.

Hopefully, JPMorgan is on the cutting edge of a trend that will sweep through mobile technology — and make me feel a little less guilty about the 95 unplayed voicemails on my iPhone (sorry, Mom and Dad!).

Voicemail is a bad way to deliver information

The deep, dark voicemail abyss that lives on my desk.

Here's what's bad about voicemail: it is, in every sense, a terrible way to deliver information. To start, the connection isn't always great, meaning that crucial information gets lost. Second, most voicemails don't contain much information at all. The ones on my iPhone, for example, are mostly my parents letting me know that they called (Hi again, Mom and Dad, I'll call tonight! Promise!). But their missed call already conveys that information.

Lastly, the format of the standard voicemail message — where the phone number gets left at the end — is infuriating. It means that whenever anyone leaves me a message, I end up listening to it three or four times to get all the right digits of the phone number scribbled down.

Voicemail was an imperfect but useful way to convey information up through the 1990s, but then, well, the internet happened. And email turned out to be a much better way to convey information. Over email, you never get a crummy connection. And you can scan the message quickly for the information you want — such as a phone number — without having to read through the rest of the information in front of it too carefully.

So, good riddance to voicemail. And apologies to the 47 voicemail leavers in my inbox whom, for reasons explained here, I have not called back.


Vox featured video: The case against time zones