Coca Cola elects to text as voicemail falls wayside
There is, or rather there was, a classic scene from the movies: the protagonist comes home and hears (or ignores) a voicemail message that could change his/her life. Alternatively, that same protagonist fails to deliver an important message because another character voice message box is full. Older people, myself included, still remember when callers would leave you a message “after the tone” because nobody had answered on the other end of the phone. However, the voice message may soon join the Dodo and the typewriter in extinction heaven. Young and not so young people today prefer more immediate communications. Instead of waiting for the recorded voice message to list all the cumbersome options, it is simply better to send an email or a text message. Maybe even a message in chat, so we can find out in ‘real time’ if the intended recipient has received it or not. It may be time, therefore, to bid farewell to our telephone answering machines and voicemail services.
In the United States and Canada the trend has already been analyzed in detail by Internet messaging and telephone companies. The ‘USA Today’ newspaper recently reported an 8% decline from last year in the use of voice messages. Some large corporations, especially those well attuned to the habits of young generations, have taken notice; indeed, it is no longer possible to leave a voice message at Coca Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta is no longer possible. The soft drinks giant has forever turned off its answering machine in order to simplify the way the Company does business and to increase productivity. According to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg and signed by the Director of the IT group, Ed Steinike, the measure was introduced this very December. Whoever should try to call Coca Cola will be told to ‘try again later or to find an “alternative method” to contact the desired person.
Voicemail services are seen as obsolete in a world where smartphones are everywhere and where sending text messages is considered as simple as talking. Not that Coca Cola’s plan was free of any hitches. The ‘voicemail memo’, says Bloomberg, was circulated on 6 November and immediately created controversy among some employees, convinced that the move was part of a plan to cut some USD$ 3 billion a year in cost cuts until 2019. Yet, a spokesperson for Coca Cola suggested that the elimination of voicemail would actually save less than $ 100,000 a year; therefore, the intention is more one of making the work environment easier and more tolerable than to achieve any cost savings. Let’s face it, it’s boring to waste time in completing all the steps leading up to the message – less boring than actually listening to the message itself. Before Coca Cola did something about it, Vonage, a mobile communications Company, developed a new service to save ‘voicemail’ by allowing users to receive the transcript of the voice message via SMS or e-mail In addition, messages can be heard through the direct links to the recordings, without having to waste time tolerating an unpleasant metallic voice. It will not be long before only the most nostalgic users will use voicemail, which is no longer an attractive feature for young customers. When Coca Cola has offered its employees the chance to eliminate voicemail inboxes, a rather conclusive 94% took the Company up on its option.
Coca Cola is expecting to cut some USD$ 3 billion in annual expenses by 2019 in the midst of worldwide lower sales of its products; the voicemail issue was clearly considered to be serious enough to be confronted in hopes of improving productivity. The fact that Coca Cola is one of the true Global companies makes its voicemail decision so compelling. The ‘Coke’ brand has been assimilated by the cultures of every corner of the globe; it has a legendary history and it continues to find ways to succeed today and engage, even where social and corporate communications are concerned. In the near future, a new robotic communication will be possible, perhaps making text messages a thing of the path. The software type known as ‘chatbot’ is already at an advanced stage. One of these, ALICE, is so well designed to have deserved the Loebner Prize – the prize for the best artificial intelligence. ALICE is programmed to respond credibly human to messages written by any given user, simulating what the developers would like to pass off as “a real conversation.” Developers do not converse much, if that’s what you were wondering, but soon robots will be doing it for them. The film ‘Her’ has anticipated this form of communication. One of the activities with the highest time demand for any entrepreneur and employee is communication. Email, phone calls, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype and SMS are but a few.This means that making communications more efficient is one of the most important targets for any company. Steve Jobs believed that you could double, triple, quintuple your results with less effort devoting yourself to the most important things rather than waste too much time on inefficient communications.