By Peter DeHaan, Ph.D.
Voicemail systems have come a long way during their 25-year history. When first introduced in the early 1980s, these systems came in large floor to ceiling cabinets and did little more than match the functions of an answering machine. At that time, many call centers and teleservice companies feared that voicemail technology would eliminate the need for them. However, other call centers embraced the technology, integrating it into their operations. The list of possible uses grew over time as innovation occurred. A partial list of voicemail features and functions now includes:
- Message taking (that is, replacing an answering machine)
- Call screening
- Automated attendant/Interactive Voice Response (“For sales, press one…”)
- Auto-answer (generic, personal, and agent/client specific)
- Operator revert
- Giving out routine information
- Recording portions of a call for clients’ future reference (a summary or verification, the caller’s message, or the entire call)
- Voice forms
- Non real-time communications
- A dispatch tool (pager activation)
- Conference bridges
- Unified messaging/unified communications
- Speech recognition (which distinguishes spoken words)
- Voice-to-text conversion
- Voice recognition (which determines the caller’s identity)
Although all of these items are an outgrowth of voicemail, some applications have spawned completely new categories of systems. This includes voice logging, unified messaging/communications, IVR, and speech recognition.
Most systems today feature a digital architecture, which provides outstanding quality voice recordings. Also, systems with graphical user interfaces (GUI) allow intuitive system changes and mailbox programming to be easily and quickly accomplished. Flexible programming options allow for customization which is critical to call centers, especially those who pride themselves in being innovative and finding creative solutions. Although today’s systems are designed for high reliability and far surpass past systems’ run-time figures, maintenance is still a factor. System updates and backups should be able to occur without interrupting call processing; dual hot-swappable disc drives are now a common and expected feature.
Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.