This is the first in a multi-part blog series test that will review various “voicemail-to-text” (“V2T”) services that are becoming popular on the web. These services work with your existing phone carrier (cell or land line, and some offer enterprise service) and transcribe your audio voicemail messages into text and deliver the transcribed message to you via e-mail or SMS so that you can read them, rather than have to listen to them. Some people refer to this as “visual voicemail,” which is also an accurate description, but should not be confused with the feature of the same name offered on Apple’s iPhone, which is great, but different than V2T.
First up, SimulScribe.
It is probably the most popular in the US. Ads for the service, denigrating voicemail, are popping up on New York City taxi cabs. There are even Apple “I’m a Mac – I’m a PC” rip-off ads found on YouTube, like this one:
Funny, but it makes the point. SimulScribe does not just display the numbers of the people that leave you voicemail, it transcribes the audio of the voicemail into text. I tried SimulScribe, and was impressed. I initially had it set to deliver the transcribed text message to my GMail address. It worked as advertised. I then added the feature that sends the message as an SMS text message so that I could read it on my phone. That didn’t work so well because one relatively short voicemail came in 5 separate text messages – but I think that is a function of the SMS (AT&T) and not SimulScribe. For me, it is not a big deal to rely on email because I get my email on my iPhone. The big question is: accuracy of the transcription. Does SimulScribe accurately transcribe what callers are saying? To test this, and the other competing services that I’ll write about in future posts, I left myself the following voicemail (for each, I used an iPhone, spoke in my normal tone, volume, speed and clarity):
Hey, it’s Patrick. I wanted to let you know that I am testing some voicemail to text services and writing about them and the results of my test in my blog, LawyerKM. You can read about the results at www.lawyerkm.com. If you’re not familiar with LawyerKM, it’s a knowledge management blog for lawyers and people in the legal profession. That’s it for the audio test of [name of the service]. Thanks.
So, how did SimulScribe do? Look for yourself – here is the transcribed message that I received in my email. It took 6 minutes, 34 seconds from the time I hung up the phone to the time the message arrived in my e-mail inbox.
Hey, it’s Patrick. I wanted to let you know that I’m testing the voicemail to text services in writing about them and the result of my test in my blood lawyer Ken. You can read about the results at www.lawyerken.com. If you’re not familiar with lawyer Ken, it’s a knowledge management law to lawyers and people in the legal profession. That’s it for the audio test of SimulScribe. Thanks.
So, not dead on, but not bad (I like “blood lawyer Ken”).
Note that this is not an either/or service. You can also still listen to your voicemail the old fashioned way if you want. To do so, you dial in and access your audio voicemail messages just as you do now. Unfortunately, if you have an iPhone you can’t use Apple’s visual voicemail function while using SimulScribe because the voicemail is handled on SimulScribe’s system, not AT&T’s. Another handy feature is that you can opt to have an audio file (mp3, wav, or GSM) delivered as an attachment to the email that contains the text of the message. So, you can read and/or listen to the message from your e-mail.
KM is more than just identifying, capturing, and disseminating intellectual capital. It’s also about using technology to help us do things more efficiently and effectively. V2T services are good tools to help us be more efficient and effective. Most lawyers get a lot of voicemail messages everyday. If your voicemail system is like mine, then you have to work through a maze of voice prompts and menus just to hear your messages. It is surprisingly time-consuming. It is faster to read those voicemails. Plus, V2T obviates the need to take notes from those voicemails – it already there. You can forward the message to others and save the message indefinitely. You can also access the audio and text of your messages even if you don’t have access to your email. Just sign in to SimulScribe on the web to access and manage your account.
All in all, we love the V2T concept and SimulScribe does a good job. There are three pricing options: $29.95 per month for unlimited messages; $9.95 per month for 40 messages ($.25 for each additional); and a $.35 per message option. In coming weeks, we’ll review other services and see how they compare. If you use any V2T products, please drop us a line and let us know how you like them.
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