This post is a little on the ranty side, but there is a solution at the bottom 🙂
I really really really hate voicemail, I can’t even begin to find the words to describe how much I hate voicemail. To me, voicemail is one of those technological advancements that should have remained in the last century, let alone the last decade. Its an old solution to a common problem that still exists today.
This little extract from the Dilbert cartoons should explain part of how the whole “voicemail experience” makes me feel;
(All rights reserved Scott Adams, Dilbert.com)
This really does happen to me, people call me up and either;
1. Leave long messages – which are better off conveyed in email.
2. Leave short messages telling me that they’ve sent me an email or to check my email and call them back.
3. Normal people leave short messages with their details and ask me to call them back.
Ok, so now you’re thinking leaving a short message can’t be a bad thing, and thats surely the point of voicemail… well its not. Perhaps it used to be, but thats no longer the case. There are much better ways to convey the information that I have missed your call and need to give you a call back – yep, a text message. One would also be able to read the sms message and process the information in a much shorter time frame than dialing into voicemail and listening to the message. Inefficient and stupid, simple as.
So i’ve tried a number of different things over the years;
1. Turn off voicemail completely – only to get people whine that “oh, I tried to leave you a message but there was no voicemail”… thanks for informing me of what I already knew… yes, I turned my voicemail off, yes it was on purpose, and yes, if it was important enough, you’d have found SOME OTHER WAY to get the message to me.
2. Explicit asking people to leave a “SHORT MESSAGE” – this worked initially, but people soon reverted back to leaving long messages.
I had pretty much given up trying to find a solution. Then one day, salvation came, unexpectedly. I was calling a customer and they were busy, but instead of getting asked to leave a voicemail message (which I don’t tend to do either!) a little recording started to play “this person cannot take your call, please try again later or send a text message”, on repeat.
Finally, there was a solution out there! The bad news is that its a setting/option provided by their network operator. A facility which my provider, Orange, does not.
No matter, I found another way. This works on Orange, it may be different for your service provider. Using AT&T’s text to speech demo I created this wav file recording “The person you are calling cannot take your call, please try again later or send a text message”.
Then within the Orange voicemail, there is the option for an “extended absence” greeting, now the major difference between this and a normal greeting is that you can opt to not accept voicemail messages while your extended absence greeting is active. So using a pair of headphones right infront of the mic pickup on my mobile and some careful timing; now whenever someone calls and I am otherwise occupied they hear the synthised voice of Crystal, asking them to try again later or send a text.
Win 🙂 Finally!
Download the wav file: here
Or create your own: here
PS: Yes I know Google Voice would be the other solution to this problem, but its not available outside of the US, and I doubt they will bring the service to the UK, not for a while anyway.