Monday, June 6, 2011

Vanishing Volumes of Voicemails

I used to get a ton of voicemails, dozens everyday; so many that even after I had responded to all of them and gone home, by the next morning there would be another three waiting.  But, not any more.  At first, I was worried.  Was I no longer in the hub of activity?  Were people finding better answers through other sources?  Should I consider this a value metric which is heading in the wrong direction?  If no one is contacting you - what is your purpose?

I still get a few voicemail messages, but only from vendors - and most of them are cold calling, trying to sniff out a sales lead.  Most days, I can count the number of vendor voicemails on one hand, and still have enough fingers left to go bowling. 

I began thinking about the structure (architecture?) of various forms of communication.  Why is electronic communications growing so rapidly, and yet handwritten letters and notes decreasing in all but a few circumstances.  When do I pick up the phone, and when do I select a different medium?  In a business setting, most phone calls are initiated to get real-time answers to a specific question - this is not the ideal forum to utilize email.

Instant messaging, by it’s very name, is a great way to get a real-time answer to a specific question.  IM, Sametime, texting, chat, or whatever you call it has the advantage of being a real-time medium (replies *can* be delayed, but that is not its general mode), and it is not particularly well-suited to elongated conversations (teenagers notwithstanding).  It is even possible to conduct multiple simultaneous chat conversations with totally separate parties - something you could never do with the phone.

While the number of my voicemails has dropped precipitously, my number of chats has grown exponentially. Seldom do I go home at the end of the day without a dozen or more Sametime windows. I have configured my system so that each conversation shows up as a tab inside of a single Sametime window.  This makes it easier for me to manage the conversations.

My voicemails have shifted to chats.  Instant messaging has, in fact, replaced many phone calls, meetings, and emails because - none of those were really the right medium for the tasks as hand.  What do you think, post a comment or … call me.

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