Monthly Archives: March 2013
Voicemail transcription: So simple and productivity-enhancing: So, why aren’t more people using it?
This morning, while in the process of setting up one of RiteTech’s newest staff additions to our team on our CloudPBX phone system, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to reflect upon a simple, yet very productivity-enhancing feature that most people probably don’t use: Automated Voicemail transcription.
The concept is simple. Traditional voice mail systems drop a message onto a traditional phone system’s mailbox. The end user then has to (typically) manually rifle through the various voice mail messages that may be awaiting them.
Some phone system users may be lucky enough to have an option that e-mails the voice messages as an attachment, as they arrive, into the user’s normal e-mail Inbox. That’s definitely better than the old-fashioned, “manually rifle through the voice mail messages and listen to them, one message at at time” approach, but it still suffers from a lot of the same limitations of the old approach. And that is where the end user has to stop, play the message, and listen to it to get a better sense of who exactly is calling, and/or the purpose or the level of urgency of the call. If you then have to forward the voicemail message to someone else for them to take action on it, this same process tends to repeat itself over again.
Enter the wonderful world of voicemail transcription. This takes the concept of the e-mailed voicemail attachment one step further. Voicemail transcription transcribes the voice mail message into a typed text email and/or a SMS (text) message. The user can then read the voicemail message, without even needing to play it – unless they really want to. This makes it oh-so-easy for the user to just glance at the message visually – e.g. most often than not, while in the middle of a meeting or some other situation or obligation which caused the call to originally go to voice mail in the first place. This needs helps the recipient prioritize the message, and/or redirect or forward it to another team member efficiently – if appropriate. Here’s an example of one such transcript (note – Personal Identifying Information [PII] has been redacted):
“Hey, David. It’s Shaq (??). I was trying to contact you to try to setup our 1 on 1 that we talk the other day. I’ll be available by cell today at 703-217-xxxx. And really any other day other than Monday all day or Wednesday morning I’m available most of the week. So just give me a buzz back and we’ll set that up. Thanks. Bye-bye.”
In the example above, the transcript turned out pretty well. The service frequently can tell when a transcribed word may be inaccurate, in which case it enters “(??)”. Now, just as is the case with human beings, the transcriber is not going to always successfully understand and interpret every word of every message with 100% accuracy. However, most frequently when it has trouble, is when the caller is mumbling, has a very thick accent, and/or is calling from a noisy area – which, well, would cause challenges even for human listeners as well. 😉
As an aside, I remember that some people may have soured on the concept of voicemail transcription due to certain low-quality offerings that they’ve encountered, such as Google voice. To quote the old adage – “you get what you pay for”. At RiteTech, we do not recommend “free” or “ultra-cheap” communications solutions, such as Google Voice, for many reasons. We have been using a professional (paid), yet affordable voicemail transcription service at our organization for over 4 years, with minimal issues or adverse affects. It enjoys a very high transcription accuracy rate, and in the rare occasions when it “goofs up”, it’s normally because the caller wasn’t speaking clearly, was in a noisy location, or etc.. And on the rare occasion when it does “goof up” a transcript, the mistaken words or the resulting sentence(s) can sometimes be highly amusing to read – and in the worst case, you can just play/listen to the whole original message.
For more information about RiteTech’s voicemail transcription and other telephone system solutions, feel free to contact us.
Microsoft Surface “first look” & Windows7 vs. Windows8 thoughts…
As the “Snowquester” event starts in the greater Washington, DC area – we have a bunch of updates to share:
RiteTech recently completed its first project using several brand new Microsoft Surface tablet PCs. These devices will be used to help collect and correlate survey data for a large client of ours who performs international development consulting (and related activities) on behalf of USAID. The tablets, not surprisingly, were pre-installed with Windows8. As a result, I felt it was an appropriate time to share our first impressions – particularly since our team’s experience (and preference) had largely been in favor of other, lower-cost tablet devices – such as iPads or Google Nexus tablets (see prior postings for examples).
I must say that the Windows Surface tablets definitely well exceeded our initial impressions. Even though I’ve always been skeptical of Windows8 (and still am for non-touch devices – more on this in a moment), the Surface tablets definitely seem to meld the “best of both worlds” in terms of delivering a full Windows experience, while providing a tablet form factor with touch-sensitive features. For instance, it was very neat being able to use the standard suite of Windows software – including a fully capable Kaseya for remote systems management and maintenance – on a tablet device.
Another big “win” was the new Office365 subscription which our client had also purchased with their Surface tablet PCs from the Microsoft Store. This featured electronic distribution and download – basically, a single subscription code allowed installation of the product on a total of 5 PCs. The software downloaded very quickly and was probably one of the most painless, and fast, Microsoft Office installations I’ve seen in some time. While I’m still missing some of the colors and other visual treats that Office 2010 provided as opposed to Office 2013 [which is one of the reasons I continue to use the older version of Outlook 2010), the Office installation went very, very smoothly.
The only main hiccup was the attempted setup of Skype. Our client uses Skype heavily, to help its consultants stay in contact with other colleagues and co-workers, literally throughout the world. Skype did come pre-installed on the Surface Tablets, however it is a different version of Skype which requires (essentially) either requires an integration with the Windows App Store or a “consolidation” between the person’s Skype account and the account used for the Windows App Store (or a similar Microsoft account). In other words – the “normal” Skype logon which a Skype user on PC (or other devices) will not work with the built-in version of Skype on the Surface Tablet – and attempting to run the built-in version of Skype on the Surface will prod the user to attempt to migrate or consolidate their Skype account with the Windows account or App Store account. This arrangement is, frankly, quite awkward. We ended up downloading the “PC” (non-tablet) version of Skype – which we had to do on a non-Tablet device, since any attempts to do so on the Tablet device continued to point us to the Skype for Surface download – then, running that Setup program on the surface tablets.
So far, the Skype behavior was really the only “low note” in the whole experience to date. While the Surface is definitely not for everyone – particularly due to its cost – we were definitely pleasantly surprised by how well it worked, particularly in a multiple-device deployment scenario. Windows8 on the Surface worked well – or at least “well enough” – which is to be expected, given that the Surface device supports touch.
And that brings along my mandatory “Windows8 rant”. While Windows8 is what I would term “tolerable” – if not optimal – on a touch device, I am still adamantly opposed to it (Windows8) on non-touch devices. In particular, I have very disdainful feelings for it in corporate or business environments, unless it’s on a touch device. As mentioned in prior blog postings – a very simple “legacy mode” or “Win9x mode” option for the User Interface (UI) to allow users – particularly non-touch device users – to continue to enjoy the traditional Win9x interface, would have been far more advisable. Instead, I continue to find it difficult to envision how most CIO’s or other IT decisionmakers of large organizations (both commercial and governmental) will rapidly or enthusiastically want to adopt Windows8 in their organizations, when quite honestly, Windows7 works just fine – and often times, better – than Windows8 does in terms of meeting their business or organizational needs or objectives. The most common word I seem to hear from others regarding Windows8 who attempt to use it on a non-touch device is – “frustrating”. Truth be told, there are a few people who also claim to love Windows8 (although, they generally also have touch-devices to run it on!) – although, I think it’s potentially problematic when a new OS release solely generates such “strong” or polarizing reactions from its users, ranging from extremely negative (e.g. frustrating, hate it) to the other extreme. I haven’t seen this level of reluctance or potential disdain since Windows Vista and/or Windows Me, to be honest.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think Microsoft would have done well to take a cue from Apple – who has been very careful in preserving the overall “look and feel” of their Mac OS X Operating System, to ensure that they don’t inject too many radical design or UI changes into it, too quickly. They have carefully and incrementally added some touch- and iPad/iPhone-device inspired capabilities and features into the core OS X UI, but nothing to the extreme of the change in UI from Windows7 to Windows8.
And, that’s it for now. For those in the greater Washington, DC area – be safe, and enjoy the “Snow-Quester”. 😉