Machines Transcribing Your Voicemail

Terminator Screening CallInbound, unscheduled calls can be incredibly disruptive.

That’s why I often shut off the phone to enter periods of productivity and focus on deliberate tasks and quiet thinking time.

The challenge with turning off my phone has been that I accumulate voice messages that need to be listened to, codified and then acted on. This would be accomplished by me, or with help from an assistant. Either way, this activity can be time-intensive and inefficient.

For the past several years I’ve used Google Voice, which is basically one number for all my devices and locations. It has many amazing features, but among my favorites is voicemail transcription, which enables email-like management of messages. It integrates seamlessly into my overall Google/Gmail/Apps experience, and the integration with my carrier, Sprint, is pretty good. It saves me a lot of time by nearly eliminating the need to listen to voicemail messages. Now I read my voicemails.

There are a variety of digital voicemail and transcription management services. Many are good and improving, but none are perfect, especially when it comes to voice transcription. The effectiveness of digital transcription ranges from person to person, and is influenced by environmental factors like background noise and recording quality. That results in voicemail transcriptions of varying quality — from perfectly understandable to completely indecipherable. I can decipher enough information from the transcription to avoid manually listening to most messages.

In this decades-old age of voicemail, it’s always been important for callers to leave quality voice messages so human recipients can understand with minimal effort. Now that many people rely on digital voicemail and transcription services, it’s more important than ever to leave quality messages — that machines can understand. A machine will do its best to decipher your nuances and poor voice quality, but it will not do so as accurately as a human.

To ensure your message gets across, ensure the machine reading your email has the best chance of passing along the message. Do what you always should have been doing for human recipients: Speak clearly and succinctly, get to the point quickly, and ensure high recording quality.

A key nuance today is that the human recipient, biased by the convenience of digital transcription, may not have the patience, time or willingness to manually decode your indecipherable voice message.

In those situations, you are better off sending an email or a text message.

This essay also appeared in MediaPost


Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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