Even though it has been deemed obsolete quite a few times in the past, voicemail is still going strong. For businesses, in fact, having the option to direct certain callers to voicemail is a must, especially if there is nobody to pick up the call for whatever reason. But for as much as voicemail has managed to adapt to the needs of the 21st century and become an integral part of VoIP solutions, the technology is still far from perfect. Noisy, slurred, or downright incomprehensible messages are a problem still to this day, not to mention that wasting time listening to a single recording – often multiple times – instead of focusing on other more important tasks is a luxury that many businesses often cannot afford. That’s why it’s such a relief that many VoIP companies offer voicemail transcription, a simpler, more digestible format of ‘listening’ to voicemail.
A Business Productivity Booster
Even the simplest of VoIP solutions can forward voicemail messages as an email attachment alongside important data like the caller’s ID or the date and duration of the call, which is already a huge asset for businesses that need to prioritize between messages. But even with these useful functionalities on board, the only way to learn what the caller wanted is by listening to the message. And since the human brain cannot process audio as fast as written information, the voicemail usually has to be listened to multiple times, which is simply a waste of precious time.
This is the point where voicemail transcription comes in handy. By adding the transcribed version of the entire voicemail message to the email – which still contains the original recording as an attachment – users can easily scan the message and get the necessary information faster.
This quicker understanding of the recorded voicemail messages also helps business employees make better decisions at prioritizing callers, not to mention that the text within the transcribed messages can be searched, which is particularly useful if they are imported into CRMs. And lastly, transcribed voicemails are infinitely more discreet than their audio-only counterparts, which can be a true lifesaver if there is no way to listen to the original recording.
No Room for Perfection
While there is no doubt of the usefulness of voicemail transcription, the question about the accuracy of the such a service still persists. According to Xuedong Huang, a senior scientist at Microsoft, the error margin of speech-to-text systems is around 12%, which doesn’t sound that bad at first. However, even Huang had to admit that speech-to-text software will never be as good as humans manually doing the transcription, and for good reason.
In order for a program to be able to transcribe a voicemail message accurately, it needs perfect conditions such as HD call quality and callers who can not only speak the language perfectly but also enunciate. But of course we can all agree that this is downright impossible: mistakes are natural during conversations and pronunciation is rarely perfect thanks to accents and dialectic differences. Nor can we expect foreigners or people with speech impediments to express themselves in a clear, sophisticated manner just as university lecturers might.
Then there is the fact that much of the work is still done by the human brain, which is capable of extracting the necessary information from transcribed messages provided that the errors made by the transcribing software aren’t too severe.
Humans and Software: Ensuring Accuracy
Having a few errors in the transcribed message is one thing, but if the voicemail contains information where the utmost accuracy is a must, then solely relying on machine-based transcription should be avoided. In most cases it’s enough to just listen to the original voicemail message to confirm anything that may be dubious in the transcribed version, but then again this still results in lost time that could have been spent on other more important tasks.
Thankfully, many VoIP solution providers have already realized the importance of perfectly accurate voicemail transcriptions and that users don’t always have the time to ensure that the text version of the voicemail is error free. That’s why they often offer additional human-aided voicemail transcription services to their clients. For instance, Phone.com offers this particular service for just $0.25 per message, while Grasshopper provides human assistance for accurately transcribing voicemails entirely for free.
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