A few years back I was having breakfast with Jeff Pulver, the entrepreneur that started Vonage, and I asked him what the ‘Aha!’ moment was that convinced him that he had to act. He told me it was when he realized that technology had advanced to the point that voice could be looked at as just another application. Since that time, voice as an application has gone through changes most of us had not even considered (I keep thinking I should put a modifier after that word, like feasible or possible, but really we just hadn’t even considered them). Voicemail, however, for the majority of companies, is not treated as a dynamic, portable or cloud-based application. Most organizations still see voicemail as a need-to-have component of the phone system, signified by a red light on a deskphone, that is expensive to maintain and annoys their employees.
But that is changing says Roger Northrop, Chief Technology Officer at Mutare Software. “Companies are realizing that they can help their employees get the most out of voicemail and turn it into a strategic asset as opposed to a hindrance,” explained Northrop. “Forward thinking companies are looking at voicemail as an application that can be cloud-based, SaaS-delivered or virtualized on-site, and deliver functionality that makes it an effective and important communication tool.”
The Business Benefits of Migrating Voicemail to the Cloud
According to Northrop, companies with a lot of legacy systems clearly see the benefits of moving to a more dynamic, cloud-based voicemail solution. “From the IT or telephony director’s point of view, they are hearing a lot of grumbling about time consuming, outdated voicemail from employees….and it is expensive. They don’t like the cost of maintaining it, or the administrative costs of managing it, so moving to a more capable, cloud-based voicemail system is a win-win. It lowers administrative costs, while providing for increased functionality and capabilities for the employees.
From the employees perspective, the benefits are even more tangible, starting with never having to see that red-light again (or call in to see if you have any messages waiting). “The idea is to immediately notify people about new voicemail wherever they are, on whatever device in whichever manner they desire,” says Northrop. At the least, companies want their employees to be notified via email or text as soon as they receive a voicemail. “Knowing right away the phone number someone left you a message from and when, eliminates the hassle employees feel and puts the company in position to be sure important messages are being checked and responded to in a timely manner.”
Things go to the next level when the content of the message is delivered. Tapping into digitally recorded messages and bouncing them against a transcription platform allows the recipient to receive an email or text message within moments containing a voice-to-text translation of the message as well as a link to digital copy of the recording. “This seemingly small capability can have outsized benefits for organizations as their employees are able to react much more quickly and improve sales, support and customer service efforts,” says Northrop.
Connecting Existing Telephone Systems to Cloud-Based Voicemail
My next question was around how to connect a company's existing telephone system to the external voicemail solution. “There a a couple of approaches, depending on the type of circuit the company uses. If the company is using traditional T1s, then ISDN Redirects can be utilized to pass the call details to the voicemail application to capture call metadata, record and transcribe the message.”. In this instance, the completion of the call will utilize the company’s existing circuits and there can be a cost.
For organizations that have already transitioned to SIP trunking, the process is simplified. “With SIP, the session can easily be passed along directly to the hosted provider once the voicemail is initiated. There is no additional cost for this, and the application takes over recording, transcribing and notification from there.”
OK, so connectivity is taken care of, what about security? According to Northrop, the level of security required depends on the organization, with some - like defense contractors - going so far as to put the enhance voicemail capabilities behind their firewall as part of their private cloud. For others, ensuring the the voicemail data has a high-level of security with data encrypted in transit and at rest make sense. “For companies with higher security needs, we offer an app that keeps details encrypted for mobile users, to ensure end to end security,” explained Northrop. “Voicemail recordings can also be accessed via email links that hit a secure website to keep the information safe.”
Since 80% of business calls go to voicemail, it makes sense for companies to ensure their email is working for them and their employees. By thinking of your voicemail as another mission-critical application and looking to cloud-based solutions that securely deliver immediate notification and transcription to employees, voicemail can move forward from the dark ages and join us in the 21st century.