The Power of Voicemail

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

When first introduced in the early 1980s, voicemail systems were seen as a threat to live agent services by some, a technological curiosity to others, and a vital automation tool to still others. At the time, few call centers embraced the nascent technology. Fast-forward a couple of decades into a new century and we see that voicemail’s utility and ubiquitousness have changed dramatically.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Today’s call centers rely heavily on voicemail systems for a variety of tasks and functions. On a most basic level, voicemail can be used to aid intra-company communications. Another common use is facilitating contact between clients and their customer service representatives. However the biggest area of application, and the most wide-ranging, is the myriad of ways in which voicemail systems are used to serve callers. This can take the form of supplementing live agents by doing routine and repetitive tasks, enhancing agent effectiveness and productivity, providing automated services, or as a technological tool to aid agents in serving callers.

A case in point is Ambs, MI that uses a Startel Voice Processor in their call centers. “Our clients have enjoyed the Voice Processor since 1999,” stated Aaron Boatin, Vice President. “What they and our new clients are very excited about are the unified messaging services we are able to offer. Our one number follow-me service, audio conferencing-on-demand, and faxmail to email gives us a powerful suite of service offerings that we tailor fit on a client by client basis.”

With the features and power of today’s voicemail systems, they can also serve as an automatic dispatch mechanism that can respond immediately, thereby removing bottlenecks that can result from agent initiated tasks. “Call center clients today are more used to instant messaging and email so they expect that every action should be immediate,” stated Jim Becker, Marketing Manager for Amtelco. “That requires automating as much as possible to eliminate operator time spent reading through instructions and to eliminate potential operator error. Flexible dispatch methods are required when it seems like every day a new device is introduced. Clients expect their call center to be able to send messages to their new devices. These devices include pagers, cellular phones with Web and email support, PCs with Web and email, and PDAs.”

Nicholas Naimo, Telescan’s Director of Business Relations/Operations summed it up succinctly by stating, “Voicemail is an essential communications tool.”

While there are many voicemail system providers, for an updated list of key vendors who specialize in voicemail technology systems for today’s teleservice agencies and outsource call centers see Voice Mail and Voice Processing System Providers.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at

[From Connection Magazine October 2005]