If you get lots of voicemail messages, you know that managing them isn’t the easiest task in the world. A new visual voicemail service called GotVoice can help, by turning voice messages into e-mail notes that go directly to your inbox. The service can save you time, and I found it easy to set up and use, but its tardiness marred my experience with it.
GotVoice is available in three versions: Lite is a free but ad-supported service that transforms audio messages into MP3s; Premium is a $10-per-month service that also transcribes your voicemails into text; and Professional offers plans that you can customize to meet the needs of your small business.)
GotVoice works by grabbing voicemail messages from your various phone lines, including your cell phone, home phone, and work phone. (The free service automatically retrieves messages once a day, and it can retrieve messages 12 more times per day at your request. The Premium service offers 12 scheduled retrievals per day, with the option of 18 additional manual retrievals daily.) If GotVoice finds any new messages, it forwards them to the GotVoice servers, where the service transcribes them or converts them into MP3s, and then sends them to your e-mail address.
I signed up for the Premium service by entering my cell phone number and provider name, my e-mail address, a user name and password, and my credit card information. Soon GotVoice sent a voice message to my cell phone to test the connection between it and my service provider’s voicemail server; a few minutes later, an e-mail message arrived informing me that the service was ready to go.
I called my cell phone from my work phone and left a message, speaking in my normal cadence of sometimes incomplete sentences. About 15 minutes later my Gmail account received an e-mail note from GotVoice containing a transcription of my voicemail message and an MP3 file. I was impressed at the accuracy of the transcription; it got only 4 or 5 of the 50-odd words in the original message wrong, and even in those cases it wasn’t off by much, so the gist of the message was clear.
Unfortunately, my second test was less successful: The GotVoice transcription captured only the last half of the sender’s voicemail message, though the part it captured was about 90 percent correct (as before). The attached MP3 file contained the entire voicemail message.
That night, at 10:20 p.m., I received a voicemail message from a friend, but the GotVoice e-mail message containing the transcription and the MP3 file didn’t arrive until 10:11 a.m. the next day — almost 12 hours later. This time the transcription was only about 80 percent correct; my friend had mentioned a couple of proper names, which GotVoice couldn’t make sense of. For example, when he said his daughter’s name — Chloe — GotVoice rendered it as “clovey.” GotVoice is supposed to check the company’s servers during business hours, and 10:11 a.m. is well into the workday. GotVoice explained that its servers tend to be overloaded at the beginning of the day because of all the messages it has to fetch at once from its customers’ voicemail services.
GotVoice gives you some pretty cool ways to reply to the voice messages in your e-mail inbox. From my Gmail account, I could hit the Reply button and then type in a message as if I were replying to a regular text e-mail note. GotVoice would then send my words to the recipient’s cell phones as a text message or to the recipient’s regular telephones as an audio voice message spoken by a computer voice. This feature worked well whether the message I replied to came from a cell phone, a PBX work phone, or a home phone. In all cases the replies went out immediately, and the computer voice accurately spoke the text I had typed.
If you go to your inbox at the GotVoice site (log-in required), you can record a voice response to a message by using either a microphone or your phone (GotVoice calls you, and you simply start talking). Or you can type your message and let GotVoice’s male or female robo-voice say your message for you.
My biggest concern about the service is how long it will be around. GotVoice’s benefits are greatest for working people, and office PBX phone systems are beginning to build in the “unified communications” features that are among GotVoice’s main selling points. IT departments are far likelier to support that approach to unified communications than to gravitate toward a system adopted ad hoc by a few end users.