Why the benefits of visual voicemail deserve a closer look

We often hear about the demise of voicemail. But it hasn’t gone away yet — it’s just evolving.

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How many times have you heard that millennials don’t use voicemail? That voicemail is fast becoming an irrelevant technology, like cassette tapes and landlines?

“Having grown up in a texting-friendly culture, with unmediated cellphone access to their friends, they have had little formative experience leaving spoken or relayed messages over the phone,” says an article in The New York Times about millennials’ texting habits.

It may be true that millennials don’t really use voicemail. But a text message isn’t always appropriate in a workplace setting, nor is it always the most effective form of communication.

We’re now seeing voicemail evolve to bring the best of both worlds together. With visual voicemail — and cool features like video messages and even animated avatars — it’s becoming more user-friendly, more personal and maybe even more attractive to a generation of users that has shunned its use.

One of the biggest issues with traditional voicemail is that half the time people don’t bother to listen to their messages. How many times have you left a detailed message about an upcoming meeting, and your co-worker immediately calls you back without bothering to listen to the message?

Oftentimes you have to navigate your way through a labyrinth of menu options just to leave a voicemail; you then have to listen to a robotic voice repeating the number you just called (and can see on your call display) before telling you the mailbox is full or your message is too long. And then the recipient doesn’t bother to listen to it anyway.

Believe it or not, Apple introduced visual voicemail on its iPhone back in 2007, but the concept didn’t really start to gain traction until a few years ago. It still isn’t being used as much as it could be, though it has the potential to improve the voicemail experience as part of an overall VoIP strategy.

First off, you can listen to messages with a simple tap, rather than navigating through menu options. You can see who the caller is, when they called and the duration of the message. With visual controls, you can play, pause and delete messages, call back or send a message.

Voice-to-text transcription is particularly handy when you’re unable to check voicemail (such as in a meeting, on the road or in a noisy environment). But it’s also ideal for millennial workers — they might not listen to your voicemail, but they’ll read it.

While voice-to-text translation isn’t perfect, it’s still better than most people’s texts (which are riddled with abbreviations I don’t understand and words that didn’t autocorrect correctly). I’ve wasted far too much time texting people back with “?” because their message made absolutely no sense.

And just when we thought voicemail was dead, it’s being resurrected with cool new features, like video messages and animated avatars that sync with your voice. Sure, you might not want to send your boss a message using a blue cat avatar, but I could see how avatars would get people’s attention — and get them communicating.

The same could be said for video messages, which add a personal touch and allow you to interpret body language and facial expressions. And this will be the next evolution of messaging, according to an article in Forbes.

So what’s the killer up for visual voicemail? It might be as simple as making voicemail relevant again.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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