Voice messaging is a computerized method of storing and manipulating spoken recorded messages that is accessible to users from any touch-tone phone twenty-four hours a day. A voice-messaging system can be easily accessed by local, remote, or mobile users via land-lines or cellular phones. Messages may be created in a user's voice mailbox and then transported to another voice mailbox in a manner similar to the e-mail process.
Voice-messaging systems include such services as voice messages, voice-mail distribution lists, fax-in and fax-on demand in the mailbox, interactive voice response, and voice forms that any user can access anywhere in the world.
HOW VOICE MESSAGING WORKS
Person A calls Person B, who is not available to take the call. Person B's voice mailbox or answering machine takes the call, replaying it when Person B returns and accesses it. The answering machine can be precise to Person B or can be shared with multiple office personnel. If the company has either a precise or shared system, Person B may retrieve the message by using a digitized code assigned to him or her. This code is called a voice-mail number. The voice mail system is designed to transfer a person's call to another telephone automatically by using call forwarding and to prioritize messages so that a specific phone number from Person A—the recipient—is prepared to communicate to Person B—the caller—for feedback.
HOW VOICE MESSAGING RELATES TO THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS
Voice messaging relates to the communication process by increasing productivity, improving internal communication, enhancing customer service, and reducing message-taking costs. The proper implementation of a voice-messaging system could be linked directly to improved public relations in companies.
In companies where a voice system is in place, users can easily change their greeting and the information in it and invite callers to leave their name, number, and any desired information. Voice-messaging systems in some companies permit users to call from any telephone in the world to change their greeting and to retrieve messages at any time of the day or night. Using a voice-message system ensures accurate messages, reduces the need for receptionists to take messages, and frees users from time zone dependence.
Many different types of companies, from investment services to manufacturers, could possibly attain significant benefits in a short period of time, by using a voice-message system for internal communication between remote sites by means of such of integrated features as fax/voice mailboxes and pager notifications. It appears that the more voice messaging a company uses, the more benefits and revenue savings could be realized.
When using a voice-messaging system, users should especially careful to make their communication clear, concise, complete, and unambiguous. A voice-messaging system can create a first and lasting impression for users. Therefore, the following do's and don'ts may should be observed.
- Communicate with departments to obtain support.
- Consider training classes for company users so they can effectively handle incoming calls to the voice-messaging system.
- Communicate with customer service representatives about proper handling of calls.
- Test and navigate through the various options in the system to improve or streamline the messages.
- Be careful not to overlook company customers. Be sure to know how they want their calls handled.
- In communicating, avoid being insular. Consider what your company's competition is doing and how you can apply their success to your company.
- Do not revise the system unnecessarily. Inquire about added features/applications only if you have maximized the use of those in existence.
As voice messaging become more prevalent, the issue of privacy becomes critical. Companies need to be as protective of their voice-mail system as they are of their computer system. Potential abuses of voice-messaging systems include fraudulent long-distance charges, malicious system intrusion, and corporate espionage. Many such abuses can be prevented by establishing certain policies and procedures that can enhance security, such as making it easy for users to change their passwords, establishing a system of automatic random password creation for new mailboxes, and having a flexible password structure. Nine to eighteen digit passwords are advised.
Two components prevalent to voice messaging are a user's outgoing personal greeting recorded in his/her own words and their message left for a receiver's response.
TIPS ON OUTGOING PERSONAL MESSAGES
- When recording a greeting, speak in a slow, clear, and concise fashion.
- Once a greeting has been recorded, call yourself to see how you sound and to determine whether you should re-record the message.
- Keep the recording to eight to twelve seconds.
- With your best voice, speak in a friendly tone of voice.
- If you will be unavailable for an extended period of time, change your message to let your callers know the time of your return and the name and phone number of someone who can help them until then.
TIPS ON LEAVING A MESSAGE
- Be sure to have a message in mind when you place a call in case you have to leave a message.
- Get to the point: Explain who you are and why you have called. Avoid rambling and repeating yourself.
- If you want to speak with someone about a specific topic that could be long and detailed. leave a "subject-matter-only" message; for example, "Allen, I need to speak to you about the XYZ Project at your convenience." Do not leave a long, drawn-out message.
- Do not leave bad-news messages of a personal nature on the voice-mail system. Such messages are inappropriate.
- Be careful of what you say and how you say it, so you will not regret the message later. Because most voice-mail systems allow messages to be forwarded to others, you never know who might hear your message. Many voice-messaging systems do not allow you to eliminate a message once it's sent.
- While it may not be necessary to give the date and time of your message, it is wise to leave a date and time when you will be available if you want a call-back.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
With the increasing prevalence of voice messaging, both its advantages and disadvantages have begun to surface.
- It provides twenty-four-hour-a-day answering capability.
- It enhances efficiency and boosts job productivity.
- It saves and generates money for the company.
- It improves the accuracy of message content.
- It enables one to send multiple messages to people.
- It allows messages to be easily updated.
- It reduces the need for administrative/receptionist/secretarial support.
- It serves as an important medium for business communication.
- It makes transferring of phone calls from department to department easier and more efficient.
- Many people are resistant to technological advancement.
- It can be difficult if users are not trained to use voice-messaging systems.
- A voice-messaging system can be less economical for smaller companies.
- People can "hide behind their mailbox" and not return calls.
- Many people dislike not being able to reach a live person.
- Concern for the sender of message leaving a confusing message and lack of instructions.
- Too many voice-messaging options may make it difficult for people to recall which options they used previously.
WHEN TO USE VOICE MESSAGING
Voice messaging has become a viable alternative to e-mail and fax systems as a business communicating tool, each of these three methods having specific advantages in different situations. (1) If users need to ensure privacy, deliver information quickly, get a quick response, add a personal touch, or send messages quickly, voice messaging is more desirable than e-mail or fax. (2) If users need to send information to many persons, outside the company, e-mail is most desirable. (3) If users want to edit or attach comments, forward messages to others, send information to many persons outside the company, keep or providing a hard copy, and provide a quick review of information, a combination of voice mail and e-mail is most desirable. (4) If users want to keep or provide hard copies of documents and distribute complex, lengthy information, the fax system is most desirable. (5) If users want to ensure privacy, edit or attach documents, and distribute complex or lengthy information, a combination of voice and fax systems is desirable.
see also Communications in Business ; Speaking Skills in Business
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Christine M. Irvine
voice mail (also voice·mail) • n. a centralized electronic system that can store messages from telephone callers.