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What About Voicemail in a Unified Communications World?

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Sep 4, 2014

Like so many forms of communications, voicemail has been transformed in the last decade.  Gone are the days when being able to leave a message for someone that didn’t pick up the phone revolutionized our ability to connect with people.  Now, according to studies, 80% or more of all business calls go to voicemail, and businesses and business people are looking for ways to make voicemail more efficient and effective - and less time consuming.voicemail_answering_machine

To answer the question, how is voicemail evolving and staying relevant in a hyper-connected world, we spoke with Jeremy Parker, Director of Operations at Mutare.  “Voicemail is still a key component of every company’s telephony and UC strategy,” explained Parker.  “There are so many ways to communicate now, but most don’t provide the real touch with a person - like inflection and tone of voice - that voicemail does.  I think we’ve all misinterpreted the tone we thought we read in an email or a text message we received, and that is a problem that doesn’t exist with voicemail.”

Voicemail Still Important for the Important Things

Still, the trends are clear - overall voicemail traffic is going down, as are the number of messages being retrieved.  USA Today and Vonage did a study a couple of years ago that found the number of VM messages retrieved went down 14% in just one year.  However, according to Parker, while the number of voicemails left is going down, the importance of the messages may be going up.  

“When you have something important to convey, or you really need to get in touch with someone, you will pick up the phone and call that person,” says Parker.  Since the majority of calls are going to voicemail, the key for businesses is to make sure those communications don’t disappear for 6 hours until the next time someone has a chance to dial into their voicemail box.  “Today, business people want to be notified as quickly as possible about their voice messages in the manner that is most convenient for them.“

Notification, Transcription on Top of Voicemail Wants For Employees, Companies

Immediate notification is the number one priority for most employees and companies,” explains Parker.  “There is still a big analog infrastructure out there and finding time to call in from the road or waiting to see the red light on your desk phone isn’t efficient enough.”  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 check and responded to in a timely manner.”



Of course that notification is much more powerful when the content of the message is provided.  That is why the real push in voicemail right now is towards voicemail transcription.  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. This provides the employee with the gist of (and often, if the caller doesn’t mumble, the exact transcription) of the voicemail, allowing them to gauge its importance, determine whether they should listen to the entire message for more nuanced insights and prioritize the response time.  All of which can result in better decision making, happier customers and hopefully more opportunity.

Voicemail Transcription Leads to Advanced Capabilities

Now that we know who called, when and for whom, AND we’ve transcribed the message things can get interesting.  “Companies want to be able to do something with the information included in voicemails,” explains Parker, “and when we translate the voice message into text, that data can be integrated in other systems and databases in multiple ways.”

For example, some companies are setting up central voicemail boxes that can then be parsed through in order to determine how to handle the messages.  Do they contain keywords that indicate someone is upset or the message is important?  Are they from important customers?  By integrating the system with a presence management application, messages can be routed to the correct employees as necessary.

Other businesses are taking the voicemail transcriptions and associating them with records in their CRM system to enhance the customer record.  Others are having their salespeople leave messages for themselves after important meetings that are then transcribed and forwarded to them as emails and placed directly in the CRM system.

With the great majority of companies still looking to make the migration to a transcribed voicemail notification platform, expect to see this trend continue until we are all getting our voicemails delivered as text to our smartphones.  From there, it is up to your imagination to figure out ways to create efficiencies in your organization.


Topics: Voice, collaboration, Business Case