Types of Voice Mail
There are several types of voice mail systems available. Such systems are designed to function differently based on who’s using them and where, what equipment and software is used, and who’s providing the phone message services.
In general, two major systems include ones based on PC technology and proprietary systems using equipment specially designed and supplied by a voice-mail provider.
PC-based systems can be run using standard computers and servers. Such equipment can be modified to include voice board circuitry and additional plug-ins for phone lines or other equipment. These systems also include specialized software that integrates incoming and outgoing phone messages.
Service-provided voice mail systems use hardware that’s specially built by the company. Such proprietary systems can be customized from the ground up for the type of business it will serve. They can be more expensive than PC-based systems because of their custom nature.
Other types of voice mail systems are available. While they each share some commonalities, there are important differences between them.
Residential voice mail, for instance, refers to voice-mail systems for the home. Generally these serve landlines and may include one or more “mailboxes” in which incoming callers can leave messages. In such systems, one mailbox typically acts as the main one, from which users can enter commands. Such systems can be based off-site with a service company or on-site with the resident’s home computer. Users generally record a greeting and dial a special number and enter a password to retrieve messages. Cell phone voice mail works much the same way, except that it’s based on wireless technology exclusively.
Business voice mail and office voice mail can be based on- or off-site, using PC or proprietary equipment. Such systems operate multiple mailboxes and generally have an automated attendant that guides both internal and outside users through commands to leaving and retrieving messages.
Using Voice Mail
As with most communications technology, simplicity of use is a must with voice mail. Early systems were complicated and cumbersome, which meant only the largest corporations could afford to buy and maintain them. PC-based systems and the plethora of service providers changed that. Now it’s easy to use a voice message system, whether it’s residential voice mail, cell phone voice mail or office voice mail.
Using voice mail, for the incoming caller, is as easy as dialing a phone number and speaking. After dialing, the party’s phone will ring or, if prearranged, the call will be sent straight into voice mail. Once there, the caller will be instructed how to leave a message by the person’s outgoing message.
A typical outgoing message might go something like this: “Hello, you’ve reached the voice mail box of John Smith. I’ll be out of the office until Monday. Please leave me a message after the tone including your phone number, and I’ll call you back when I return.”
Such a message gives the caller important information, including when Mr. Smith will be back in the office, and therefore when the caller might expect a call back. Most voice mail systems allow internal users to constantly update their outgoing message.
Some voice mail systems allow callers to page the person by pressing a number on their phone keypad. The auto-attendant will advise the caller of this option, as well as instructing the caller to stay on the phone for further options once they’ve finished recording a message. Such options might include assigning a delivery priority to one’s message, ranging from normal to urgent delivery. Urgent delivery might be set up to automatically send a page, text message or e-mail to the internal user, advising them of the message’s nature.
For the internal user, using voice mail usually involves setting up a “mailbox” or account, entering certain keypad commands, recording outgoing messages (some systems allow the user to record both internal and external outgoing messages or greetings) and retrieving messages.
Setting up a mailbox creates a space for your messages on the server. It opens a file where your digital messages can be stored. You often also create and enter a pass code, so that only you or someone whom you authorize can listen to or manipulate your voicemail box.
Keypad commands include features such as forwarding messages, archiving messages, deleting messages and replying to messages.
Users can retrieve messages at their usual work station or home, or remotely using a special phone number and pass code or through their computer. Such procedures vary by provider.
Some services provide fax detection, which automatically detects when a number is accessed by a fax machine. When this happens, the service may automatically disconnect the call or redirect to a fax machine if one exists. The recipient can then download those saved fax messages to another fax machine, forward them or save them.
Other providers offer a question-and-response service, whereby the mailbox owner can program his mailbox to ask questions and record responses. This system could be used, for instance, to provide round-the-clock service that will help organize information while you’re out of the office.
For more detail: How Voice Mail Works