Today's post is about how sometimes bucking the status quo can pay off for you if you have the guts to take a few calculated risks. Early in my career I took some risks that many people would consider foolish. Looking back I think some were appropriate and perhaps a few were not really worth the risk. Having said that, I was thinking about one action that I took that although it was seemingly simple, it was probably not the smartest risk to take. Fortunately it worked out for me and in the end it did teach me a few skills that I still use in business today. Sow what was it that I did? Well....I declined to use voicemail. I know you're probably thinking "Seriously? That's it?" but yes, that's it and it was a significant and rebellious act in corporate America back then.
For those of you reading this that have corporate jobs you can probably relate. Roll the clock back to the early 2000's and imagine making a statement to your employees, co-workers and superiors that you are no longer going to participate in the normal communication process of leaving, receiving and responding to voicemails. imagine the frustration and escalations that would occur because your were "non responsive". It was a shit show. Trust me.
So let me explain why I took this stance and how this whole thing played out. I'll start by saying that I've tolerated answering machines and voicemail since childhood and I really became a true voicemail hater when Brazilian inventor Nelio Jose Nicolai gave us Caller ID. Then when texting became main stream, I was officially DONE with voicemail entirely. When people leave messages like "Hey. It's so and so. Give me a call back." I get annoyed that they've wasted my time by making me listen to a message that simply states the fact that they called and would like to speak with me. Well no shit! I can see the missed call! Then there's the long winded, won't shut the Hell up messages that drone on forever. P.S.A. - If you absolutely MUST leave me a voicemail, please get to the fucking point ASAP! But for those of you that recall the good ole days, you know that the worst part of voicemail on cell phones was the process of accessing it.
Anyway, I was one of those people that moved away from land line phones as soon as the economics of cell phones became viable. Unlimited calling and no roaming fees meant that I was no longer going to pay for a home phone. I was an early adopter for sure. This decision meant that all of my missed calls went to cell phone voicemail and that wasproblem for me. At least with an answering machine I could skip ahead, or simply mass delete the messages if I wanted to. Old school cell pone voicemail was not that cooperative.
If you recall, accessing voicemail on mobile phones back in the day was a HUGE pain in the ass. So much so that I stopped providing a greeting for callers and told them not to leave a message because I would not listen to it. Friends and family members were easy to convert but business associates were the WORST!! It took time and several black eyes and one near brush with a potentially career limiting event but eventually I was able to wean most people off of leaving me voicemails. SUCCESS!!!
The following is an email that I wrote back in December of 2004. I looked through my archives and pulled this bad boy out to share with you. It's my very first communication to the world about my extreme dislike for voicemail. Looking back, it was soft and a pit passive aggressive. the result was a sharp reduction in the number of voicemails that I received however by February of 2005 I was much more direct and matter-of-fact with my message. The insanity needed to stop.
Uhhhggggg I Hate Voicemail!
I hate getting voicemail. The last thing I want to see when I look down at my phone is that stupid little voicemail icon. My messages go unchecked for days if not weeks, and every time I finish going through a backlog, somehow more of the darn things show up. I've considered changing my greeting to something like "Please DO NOT leave a message. Send me an email, send me an text, or even better, just hang up since my caller ID works just fine." But I don't because as much as I dislike it, I know voicemail is necessary.... Right??
I realized the other day that although voicemail itself drives me crazy ( If someone could invent a “get-to-the-point” button that might help things…I think...maybe.), the horrible implementation that every mobile phone carrier seems to use to access voicemail really puts me over the edge. To get my voicemail, I have to call in, wait, enter a code, wait, listen to the stupid greeting, wait, then navigate through one or more messages using a very clumsy and non-intuitive numeric interface. Even with all the menu options memorized, it still takes far longer than it should.
I guess the point of this email is this. I'd appreciate it if you would not leave me voicemail. I can see that you called. I'll call you back. I promise.
Sorry for venting…thanks for reading. I feel better now. :-)
I bucked the system on this topic early on. I like to think that I've somehow paved the way for those that follow me andshare in a mutual distain for voicemails. In fact, I think it's safe to say that today the majority of people (50 and younger) see things the way I do. Voicemail is bullshit and only mean/insensitive people or bill collectors leave them.