‘The Person You Are Trying to Reach Is Unavailable’

Telephone communication is besieged in the U.S., and the battle lines are becoming no more visible than in corporate America itself.

There was recently an article in the Wall Street Journal about the declining use of Voice Mails by corporate America.

The reason given (beginning with Coca-Cola back in December 2014) is to save money. 

That’s one reason. As you’re about to read, and if you follow along with me, we (or some of us) in the recruitersphere have reason to suspect there may be another, far more Machiavellian motivation for doing away with Voice Mail.

With the popularity of social media and the ease with which recruiters can “snoop” on what’s going on inside some departments of companies, taking away functionality in the telephone system is a good way to block contact of employees — or so these companies think.

Calling in a Big Gun, an academic from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, research fellow Michael Schrage from the Institute’s Center for Digital Business, said recent studies show that most voice messages aren’t played back, particularly among people under 30 years old. He goes so far as to say, “Voice mail is the most inefficient way for intra-office communication.”

J.P. Morgan says it will save $3.2 million a year; $10 a month per employee, or $120 a year, for voice-mail services.

In an aside, JPMorgan Chase, as one of America’s three biggest banks, made, along with Bank of America and Wells Fargo, more than $1.1 billion on overdraft fees in the first three months of 2015 (of a total of just over $2.5 billion collected from consumers from 600 U.S. banks that had to disclose overdraft fees for the first time.)  If this rate keeps up, the three largest banks named could bring in $4.5 billion in overdraft charges by the end of the year!

Kind of makes $3.2 million look like a piddling amount, doesn’t it?

Bank of America is also one of the banks on board to “cut costs” by cutting Voice Mail!

But wait a minute.

Are they really cutting Voice Mail?

For the affected employees among the roughly 135,900 in the consumer-and community-banking unit of J.P. Morgan Chase, a new generic message awaits:

“You have reached J.P. Morgan Chase; the person you are trying to reach is unavailable to take your call. Please try your call later.”

The article also says, “the bank also will steer employees to email and cellphones.”

Sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? I’ve listened to a lot of Voice Messages in my time as a phone sourcer.  A canned script like this one most probably isn’t going to allow for a personalized number or email for each employee called. It’ll sound more like, “You may try to reach this person by email or on their cell phone.”  The implied message is that the caller is an insider or has the email or cell phone number already.

What they really mean is you can call in but you can’t leave a message for the owner of the Voice Mail.

So what’s going on here?

The telephone is the surest, fastest, and most convenient access to employees inside companies today.

Emails are easily ignored; sometimes even blocked from the inside.

Instant messaging, unless connected by company intranets, is often blocked by companies to the outside platforms that provide it.

Texts are dependent upon learning cell phone numbers; to this date almost as hard as learning social security numbers. No directory exists for cellphone numbers.

Names in many verticals  (investment banking, technology, operations, human resources, finance) are easily found in social media and business networks today working at these companies and the next step in the recruiting process is contacting these people to engage their interest and offer them other opportunities.

Doing away with Voice Messaging on landlines is just a first step in separating the herd into a pen — and the highest rung on the slippery slope that may well see more and more culling of stakeholder value without consent.

Guess what 50,000-person unit I am guessing J.P. Morgan is eliminating 30,000 landline Voice Mails in?

(This is is my interpretation of the WSJ article based on what I know of the structure of these departments from my many years of sourcing in them. The article doesn’t say this directly, but I’m reading between the lines and I’m pretty sure this is what’s happening! If it’s not, I welcome someone from J.P. Morgan to respond.)

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You got it. Investment banking — the client-facing whales that bring in the big bucks — the investment dollars captured in their vaults that count towards their percentages on reserve. They don’t want any recruiters getting near those people!

I wonder how happy their money-investing clients will be to hear this message:

“You have reached J.P. Morgan Chase; the person you are trying to reach is unavailable to take your call. Please try your call later.” 

What other groups are next on the chop block?

Uh-huh — Technology and Operations. The article goes on to say that Human Resources and Finance will likely follow.

That’s what the article seems to be calling a fait accompli.

I call it a coup d’etat.

What do you call it?

About the Author

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!

  • http://www.medievalrecruiter.com/ Medieval Recruiter

    i call it odd, and a waste of fussing. As a potential candidate myself, I’d never do business with a firm whose representatives were dumb enough to call my at work on a company line, which can be monitored, and put my job in jeopardy to satisfy their contact quota. And my guess is this voicemail axe is just the result of repeated studies showing it to be inconvenient for intra-office communication, which it is. However, intra-office communication is different than external communication, so I don’t think paying customers will have trouble reaching whoever they need. And if this does cause a disruption in phone sourcing, good. Yet another thankful and long overdue move of recruiting away from the sales! tactics of old and more toward a mature market where information and brand differentiation count more than slick talk and little information from some commission based hound looking to get a fee at any cost.