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Largest paint producer in U.S. eliminates work voicemail

The largest paint producer in the U.S. eliminated work voicemail for roughly 800 employees at its corporate office because of declining popularity among workers.

Dialing into work voicemail may soon be a chore of yesteryear.

With email and instant messaging dominating business communications, companies are dumping the traditional voice bank to cut unnecessary expenses. The latest company to drop its voicemail system is one of the largest paint producers in the United States, PPG Industries Inc. The Pittsburgh-based company eliminated work voicemail for its 800 employees in October 2015.  

The move hasn't affected customer service, according to Mark Silvey, a senior manager of corporate communications at the company. That's because PPG sales and support staff weren't using work voicemail anyway.

Instead, they use email and instant messaging on company-provided mobile phones. "Nearly all PPG employees located at its global headquarters have access to a variety of channels for communications," Silvey said via email.

Without voicemail, employees could focus on being responsive through communication channels most often used by both internal and external colleagues, Silvey said, including email, instant messaging and mobile devices.

"While there is a cost savings associated with eliminating the service, the savings is not significant and was not a primary driver for the decision," Silvey said.

Work voicemail's role is becoming obsolete

Introduced in the 1970s, voicemail became an essential work tool within 10 years. Fast-forward to today, and as the old adage says: "Times, they are a changin'." Nowadays, a move like PPG's is not unprecedented. There is a growing list of companies who have stopped using work voicemail.

Last year, the investment bank JP Morgan Chase dropped voicemail for 135,900 employees who said they didn't need the service. The cost was an estimated $1.4 million per month.

In 2014, global soda-pop producer Coca-Cola discontinued voicemail for nearly all of its employees at its Atlanta corporate office.

A decline in work voicemail use is a trend that started in the consumer world, according to Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research in Mokena, Ill.

"There are suitable alternatives now, like text, and people don't like to listen to voicemails," Lazar said. "The cost of having a voicemail solution, storing and archiving voicemail -- especially in regulated companies -- is not an expense that is easy to justify anymore."

A 2012 study by telecom company Vonage echoed those sentiments. The study showed voicemail volumes dropped by 8% from 2011, and the number of people bothering to retrieve voicemail messages plummeted 14%.

"Nobody wants to dial into a voicemail and enter a password anymore; that's not the way it's done," said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc.

Though the cost of voicemail isn't the most expensive communication tool businesses pay for, companies are beginning to view it as repetitive. "If people aren't using it, why would you bother having it?" said Bern Elliot, an analyst at Gartner.

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