Voicemail is dead. Long live unified messaging!

Spoken | August 9, 2016

A few weeks ago, many of you were kind enough to contribute to a survey asking about your voicemail habits. And the results were fascinating, leading to the conclusion that perhaps listening to voicemail messages is a passe activity. In a New York Times article earlier this year, UReach Technologies, a company that operates the voice messaging systems of Verizon Wireless and other cellphone carriers, reported that more than 30% of voicemail messages go unheard for over three days.

Even in our own survey, only 39% of respondents reported listening to every voicemail message all the way through. And studies are showing that the younger generations in particular prefer texting or even good, old-fashioned email to voicemail

Many of you emailed to ask why we were asking. Now that Exchange 2010 has officially launched, we can say: because our newly-acquired nifty GotVoice voicemail transcription service is being offered as an upgraded option on Exchange 2010!

 The press release is here, and here’s the scoop:

Picture 1 At Spoken, we recently acquired a nifty service called GotVoice, a voicemail transcription service. The service works kind of like Google Voice–when you sign  up, you can have your voicemails transcribed to text and sent to your email and/or texted to your cell phone. The difference between Google Voice and GotVoice would be in the accuracy. Remember when we first reviewed Google Voice? Cool service, but the accuracy of transcription was, as Gilad Odinak, our CTO and reviewer put it, “the quality is… funny.”

That’s because Google Voice uses an automated speech recognition engine (ASR). And speech rec alone just isn’t in the place where accuracy is going to be much higher than 40%. But hey, it’s a free service, and you can still get the gist of the message, even from the wonky voicemail conversion.

Enter GotVoice. If you want an accurate transcription, add a human. ASR + humans (for tweaking garbled utterances) has proven to work very well for Spoken’s IVR offerings, so why not apply the same technology to improve the accuracy of voicemail transcription service?

Interestingly, until now, GotVoice’s most enthusiastic user has been the individual. However, on Monday of this week, Microsoft launched  Exchange 2010, and with it GotVoice’s option for upgraded voicemail transcriptions. What does that mean? If you’re an enterprise moving to Exchange 2010 and just need the gist of the converted voicemail, no worries, you’re good. But if accuracy and recordkeeping really matter, you have the option to upgrade your transcriptions using GotVoice in association with  Exchange 2010.

The fact that voicemail transcription is being offered as part of such a huge, unified message product is interesting for a few reasons:

  • We are moving to a scannable text world. Audio is linear and can’t be scanned, so it’s being phased out.
  • We are showing a preference for short bursts of information (think Twitter) instead of long, complete thoughts.
  • Our multitasking is so extreme that we must have scannable text in order to determine if a task is worth interrupting or if it can wait.
  • The flow of information to and from us is so great that we need searchable records of every transaction, even quick voice ones.

Unified messaging is the wave of the future. With our work days and workflows becoming more and more fragmented, taking the time to answer a call or even listen to a 30-second voicemail represents too great an obstacle to productivity. Soon, it won’t be just the Gen X and Y’ers who prefer texting to voicemail; soon, it will be everyone’s preference.

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