New Directions for Next-Generation Voicemail
Visual Voicemail: Shaping the Future of Voicemail
Voicemail’s Strong Roots
Voice call completion was introduced in the 1970s, in a very different era that did not include many of the things we take for granted today, such as mobile phones, home computers, and the Internet. The service was called “voicemail” because it shared some characteristics with the mail (postal) service. Voice messages were reliably delivered to a “voice mailbox,” where they waited, like letters and post cards, until somebody retrieved them.
All phones at that time were wireline, rooted to one spot — whereas people were mobile, and therefore they missed many calls. Voicemail therefore served a clear and important user need and became so popular that it spread around the world rapidly, with penetration rates ultimately reaching above 90% with some operators.
Although the introduction of mobile phones in the early 1990s meant that people on the go could now receive calls wherever they were, voicemail continued to be valuable, as callers could still be unavailable (for reasons such as they were out of range, their phones were switched off, battery depletion, they were unable or unwilling to answer calls, etc). Voicemail continued to be popular with users, and operators benefited richly from its fast return on investment (ROI) and long-term earning power.
Times Change, Voicemail Evolves
A number of developments influenced the evolution of voicemail, making the paradigm of a mailbox waiting to be checked increasingly dated.
Some key voicemail improvements:
- Immediate Delivery: A postman bringing letters to a box where they wait to be picked up may have been the most appropriate model for voicemail to follow in the formative all-wireline era of the 1970s, but cell phones made possible immediate message delivery. SMS applications pioneered delivered-to-the-handset, click-to-read messaging; voicemail adopted this technology with direct-to-handsets, click-to-hear capabilities.
- Visual Inbox: Email introduced a visual inbox that allows the user to see at a glance and handle all new and saved messages. Visual voicemail adopted the inbox model to supplement phoning in, navigating prompts and listening to messages sequentially. The visual inbox supplies at-a-glance key information such as caller, time and call length and enables users to listen to and handle messages in any order, all in the palm of their hands.
- Multiple Points of Access: Because most users have access to computers, users can now access the visual voicemail inbox not only on the handset, but also on a PC from anywhere.
- All for One: Thanks to convergence, users can now enjoy a mailbox that is a one-stop converged location for all messages from all phones: fixed, mobile, home, work. The same box can include voice, fax, SMS, MMS, video, selected email messages, and more.
- Multimedia and Personalization: In this multimedia age, avatars, Talking Heads, and an almost infinite variety of other options now make voicemail more personal and more fun.
- Organization, Storage, Personal Space: Another sign of the changing times is the vast amount of content that enriches our communications: photos, video clips, music, other audio content, and more. Voicemail can now serve as the most convenient tool of first resort for organization and storage of growing amounts of communications and content of all kinds, together with an integrated calendar and network backup to protect all information.
- Sharing: In the age of Mobile 2.0, a complete solution is one that offers easy-to-use sharing of photos, video clips, etc. Blogging, presence and identity awareness are all elements that have a place in a truly comprehensive solution.
Figure 1 – The Evolution of Voicemail
Solid Past and Brilliant Future with Visual Voicemail
Voicemail has been and continues to be one of the most successful value-added services ever introduced. Generating billions of dollars each year, voicemail is an essential source of revenues and customer satisfaction.
The inherent flexibility of voicemail has enabled it to transform in an evolutionary process from a basic call answering service with a single point of access (TUI) into a mailbox that includes additional types of messages (e.g. SMS, email), access points (PC), types of media (pictures, video), and entirely new functions (personal space, sharing).
With its new directions, Next-Generation Voicemail (NGVM) has additional means to generate revenues by increasing its penetration and usage. Recent research conducted in the UK shows that Visual Voicemail increases voicemail usage: approximately 30% of subscribers said they will use voicemail more in retrieving and depositing messages.
Visual Voicemail also can increase voicemail penetration in key market segments. An interesting finding from the UK research was that the younger the subscriber is, the more appealing Visual Voicemail is. The highest interest in this application was among kids ages 14-17.
Comverse’s InSight™ NGVM is the market leader in the Visual Voicemail arena today. Comverse has many optimal solutions deployed around the world that answer ever-evolving needs with a breadth of services that add significant value to the operator’s network. A visionary and a market shaper throughout voicemail history, Comverse Visual Voicemail continues to lead the voicemail market into its next evolutionary phases.
Please come visit the Solution Showcase at Mobile World Congress for a demonstration of Visual Voicemail.
Click for more information: InSight NGVM
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