More on voicemail transcription

In a previous posting about Jott, I mentioned GotVoice. I spoke with Colin Lamont, the VP of Sales and Marketing at GotVoice the other day. GotVoice is a voicemail-to-email company with some interesting claims. First, it collects voicemail from all your voice mailboxes: cell phone, company, personal, then it transcribes it to text and sends it to you by email and SMS.

GotVoice sells its service directly to end users, and also licenses it to service providers. The largest end-user company that has licensed it to date has about 1,000 employees. The largest service provider licensed to date has 13 million subscribers. Most wireless companies bundle voicemail for free, so GotVoice appeals to them as a way to glean revenues from their voicemail repositories. Many service providers have cobbled-together networks formed by a series of acquisitions. For these, a by-product of the GotVoice service is that it pulls all their voicemail systems from multiple vendors into a unified system.

GotVoice claims that it works with any voicemail service. This is technically challenging. There are about 8 major systems vendors from whom telephone service providers buy voicemail equipment, and each of those providers has multiple iterations of its products. So GotVoice has done extensive work first to integrate with all of these by dial-up emulation of a user, then by direct access through the system APIs for service provider deployments.

A second collection of GotVoice special sauce is in their transcription technology. GotVoice has established an exclusive partnership with an ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) vendor, working together to achieve a remarkable level of accuracy for automated recognition. The basis for this accuracy is twofold. First, it is tailored to voicemail, which tends to have a relatively consistent structure. Second, GotVoice had a non-transcription voice mail service for a few years, and amassed collection of archival voicemails from hundreds of thousands of users with which to train their recognizer. As a result, GotVoice claims 90% recognition accuracy, compared with 60%-65% from rivals.

This high accuracy enables GotVoice to depend less heavily on human transcribers. The obvious benefit of this is that their cost of doing business is lower because they need less workers. A less obvious benefit is that GotVoice claims greater confidentiality than its competitors. The agents who transcribe the parts that the ASR misses are presented only with small fragments of speech, and with a list of guesses from the recognizer. This means that the overall meaning of the message is less likely to be revealed to call center workers.

GotVoice charges $0.25 for each transcribed voicemail, with a minimum of $5.00 per month for the service.

GigaOM reviewed GotVoice in February. The review elicited some informative comments from users of various similar services.

I haven’t tried GotVoice yet, mainly because my current setup works well enough that my motivation to change is weak. I don’t have all that GotVoice offers, but I do have a single voice mailbox with a visual list of its contents.

My personal unified voicemail system is very simple. I only give out my landline number, which is provisioned to forward on busy/no answer to my cell phone. That way I pick it up on my desk when I am in the office and when I am out of the office the call rolls over to my mobile phone. If I don’t answer it there, it goes to voicemail. So all my voicemail is on the mobile.

Since my mobile is an iPhone, I get a nice visual voicemail interface. For each voicemail it shows the Caller ID and the time, though of course no text indicator of the contents. Unfortunately the iPhone visual voice mail has an irritating flaw: there is a long pause (4 or 5 seconds), between pressing the play button and starting to hear the message.

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