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The recent decision by Coca-Cola to end voicemail services forlandlines had the web abuzz for days—voicemail is dead! But reportsof voicemail's demise are probably exaggerated, at least for theforeseeable future. Even as trendsetters dismiss leaving yourmessage at the tone as an irritating time-killer, a number of morethoughtful experts are questioning whether less really is more whenit comes to communicating.

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The anti-voicemail movement has been growing for several years,and there's no doubt the shift to texting and the efficiencies ofsmartphone technology have played a large role. Why plow through avoice message when a short text can be read in the blink of an eye?And some feel that just the record of a call should result in acall back; saving you the time spent leaving a message.

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The voicemail rebellion

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An article back in 2009 in the New York Times was one of thefirst to raise the question of whether voicemail was becomingobsolete.

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“In an age of instant information gratification, the burden ofhaving to hit the playback button—or worse, dial in to a mailboxand enter a pass code—and sit through “ums” and “ahs” can seem toomuch to bear,” Jill Colvin reported.

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And she provided plenty of examples of Gen Xers and millennialsgrousing about how much time they wasted with voicemail.

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“The truly productive have effectively abandoned voicemail,preferring to visually track who's called them on their mobiles,”wrote Michael Schrage in 2013, in an article for the HarvardBusiness Review. “When once-innovative technologiesdescend—decay?—into anachronism, it's time to put them out of yourmisery.”

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And the critics have data on their side: Vonage reported an 8percent drop in voicemail volume between 2013 and 2014. Moretellingly, the VOIP provider found a decline of 14 percent inyear-to-year voicemail retrieval.

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There's no doubt that today, a substantial number of peoplesimply don't want to use voicemail—and many refuse to.

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The Nov. 6 announcement by the Atlanta-based soft drink giant toend its landline voicemail service was hailed by many as a boldstep other companies would inevitably follow.

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“If a company as middle-America as Coca-Cola is ditchingvoicemail, then, well, maybe this whole post-voicemail thing mightgo mainstream sooner than we may think,” wrote Ryan Matzner,director of strategy at Fueled, a mobile design and developmentcompany, for VentureBeat.

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Coke has declined to comment on its decision, but the companydid release a short statement, clarifying the move wasn't primarilya cost-cutting measure.

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“The main driver behind this project is not cost savings; it ischanging the tools and methods in which we communicate as acompany,” the statement said. “This action is aimed at streamliningpreferences and simplifying systems, based on associate use andfeedback.”

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The statement also said employees were given the option ofcontinuing to use voicemail, and only 6 percent chose to.

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Not dead yet

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In the days since Coke's announcement, a bit of a backlash hasoccurred: with some making the argument that even if it is trendyto dismiss voicemail as a dinosaur technology, it still has itsuses.

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“Voicemail usage is declining because there are so many viablealternatives,” says Dave Michels, a telecom expert and president ofVerge1 Consulting. “Yet it remains valuable because thealternatives are different, not simply better.”

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He adds that, for example, text messages can be misunderstood,because they lack the subtleties of tone or emphasis in a spokenmessage.

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He also noted that most initial contacts in the business worldare made by speaking on the phone—texting or email normally followafter introductions are made.

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“There is also a perception that voicemail is moreconfidential,” Michels adds. “Doctors are willing to leave patientsvoicemails, but usually not emails.”

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The personal touch

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Half of the word voicemail is, of course, voice—something thatcarries an emotional resonance texting or emails still can't match.A 2014 Vonage survey found that people prefer to hear the sound ofloved ones' voices. The survey said that in the case of a specialmoment or important message, people overwhelmingly prefer a phonecall to text messaging.

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Although the survey didn't specifically address voicemail, itfound that even younger people dropped texting for more importantmessages.

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“Surprisingly, although millennials (18-34 year-olds) text morethan they call, 67 percent stop texting and start calling when itcomes to sharing special moments,” Vonage announced last May.

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In a recent Gizmodo article entitled “You're Wrong AboutVoicemail,” Leslie Horn writes that, as someone under 40, she usedto think voicemail was obnoxious. But a very personal experienceled her to a different conclusion.

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“Voicemail is great,” she wrote. “Voicemail is essential.”

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Horn told the story of how her father unexpectedly passed away,and although she was too emotionally fragile at first to talk onthe phone about it, the many voicemails she received were of greatcomfort to her, and more valuable because she could return to themwhenever she wanted.

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The revelation also reminded her that she had saved voicemailsover the years from friends and family that she stilltreasured.

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“Voicemail is a default archive of your life. You would miss itif it were gone,” she wrote.

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Michels agrees voicemail can add a personal touch that emailsand texting don't. But more importantly for the business world, headded, the service allows more flexibility.

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“The trend in tech is more choice, not less. People expect tochoose the medium they prefer,” Michels says. “This goes back tochoice—if people can be more efficient with alternative forms, thenthey should use them. If they can't, then they should usevoicemail.”

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