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By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com. Uploaded on: 26 October 2009.
Changes in consumer behaviour and technology are shaping cellphone use. One area that is increasingly gaining attention is how consumers are moving away from voicemail and towards SMS messaging.
This trend toward text over voice messages can also be seen in the services offered
by network operators and Google Voice who provide subscribers with a voice-to-SMS
or voice-to-email transcription service. While there have been some concerns raised
about the privacy of information handled by some third party services who use automated
or manual transcription methods to convert a voice message into text, the uptake
of these services goes to show that there is market demand for text based rather
than voicemail messages.
There could be two reasons for the demand for text over voice messages. First, people
are too busy to spend the time listening to voicemails. Anecdotal evidence indicates
that people reply to a missed call rather than listen to a voicemail message left
by the caller. Second, the youth have developed a predominantly text based communications
culture reliant on social media and SMS messaging. The tendency is to text, tweet
or use instant chat first instead of making a call. It is not unlikely that as the
younger generation enters the workforce their communication habits will follow and
begin to shape business interactions.
Recent research conducted by uReach Technologies, the voice messaging systems provider
for Verizon Wireless and other mobile network providers, bears out these observations
for the North American market. Their key finding was that voicemails are increasingly
neglected by people; thirty per cent of voice messages remaining unheard after three
days or longer, and more than twenty percent of the people surveyed do not even
make the effort to dial in to check their voice messages.
On the other hand, in research conducted in 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation
for Sprint, another USA-based network, SMS messages were acted on within an hour
by 91 percent of people under the age of thirty. This age group was also found to
be four times more likely to answer an SMS within minutes than respond to a voicemail.
Those over thirty years of age were found to be twice as likely to reply within
minutes to an SMS rather than a voicemail message.
Much of the debate about the value of voicemail versus SMS for leaving messages
is about ease of use. Which technology feature is more convenient depends on whether
a person is leaving a message or receiving the message. In the case of the former,
it is far easier to simply leave a voicemail message when making a call if the other
person does not answer their phone. For the recipient, receiving a message as an
SMS is far more convenient. They can scroll through and act on their text messages
far more quickly than dialing in to listen to a string of voicemail messages.
Todays shift toward short text based communications as a compliment to voice is
a factor in explaining a consumer preference for receiver-centric rather than caller-centric
convenience in handling messages. This is part of the broader mobile culture where
consumers are empowered to manage their communications to suit their on-the-go lifestyle
and business needs an option that was not available to people in the fixed-line
only era. It seems that the technology which makes it easier for the receiver is
going to be the messaging medium of choice going forward.
In the business context, listening to voicemail messages adds to an already busy
schedule by increasing the amount of time required to act on one or more message.
On the other hand, by sending a succinct SMS message, the recipient is able to read,
digest and act on important information more quickly than if they listened to a
message and transcribed key details. In a company where business communications
are core to service delivery, SMS therefore becomes a key medium for increasing
internal efficiencies in staff interaction with clients, other staff or suppliers.
For businesses, sending an SMS message over leaving a voicemail makes sense and
has the following advantages as a key medium for effective business communications:
By looking at its workflow, a business can identify where moving to SMS based communications
makes sense instead of relying on telephonic interactions. In so doing, they take
advantage of the growing receiver-centric mobile consumer culture with a preference
for text over voice messages.