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Voice Messaging Seen as Tool Business Users Can Use to Avoid Telephone Tag.

Businesses know that any snag in communications not only impedes the daily routine, it can have direct effects on a company's bottom line. Voice messaging was developed to tackle that particular problem by allowing non-simultaneous communication.

With voice messaging, both parties do not have to be on the telephone at the same time in order to communicate. People leave voice messages, which others can receive at their convenience. The voice messages are handled and stored by computer systems which guide people via recorded oral prompts delivered over the telephone. People follow the prompts by pushing the telephone keys, which instruct the system to record, send and retrieve messages.

Typically, four out of five telephone calls do not reach the intended recipient. Instead, a round of "telephone tag" begins where the caller encounters secretaries, message centers, busy signals or simply unanswered telephones. The caller leaves a name and number to call-if any message can be left at all. The recipient then returns the call, only to find the original caller unavailable.

Instead of leaving only a name and number, voice messaging systems allow callers to leave detailed questions they want to ask or information they need to convey. Because the messages are recorded in the caller's own words, the messages do not suffer from third-party transcription errors. Voice messaging systems are available 24-hours a day from any pushbutton telephone, allowing users to communication despite time zone differences or geographical mobility. Ultimately, white collar productivity is considerably enhanced: information flows more quickly and employees spend less time on wasteful telephone calls.

While comments from current users inspire rosy projections for the voice messaging marketplace, further developments make the case for voice messaging all the more compelling. Any organization considering itself a prospect for office automation will inevitably examine the merits of a voice messaing system.

The first voice messaging systems offered in the late 1970's cost more than $500,000. Systems followed at prices between $100,000 and $200,000 and customers can now purchase voice messaging capability for as little as $70,000. The falling prices result from the decreasing costs of producing disks and the increased competition from the manufacturers of voice messaging systems.

In addition to price reductions caused by cheaper production and competition, costs have also declined as voice compression rates have increased to the extent where fewer storage disks are required for the same number of messages. While 32,000 bits of data were once required to represent one second of voice, today's systems need only 16,000 bits, and some manufacturers are experimenting with compression rates as low as 4,000 bits.

Increased competition is also driving prices down. The earliest vendors were voice messaging start-ups, such as VMX. The next wave of entrants was spearheaded by the office automation segment, represented by IBM and Wang. The business communications companies, Rolm and AT&T Information Systems formed the third wave, when they announced voice messaging systems in 1982.

With each successive entrant came lower priced systems, and competition will continue. Sperry and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) have recently announced their entry into voice messaging; several new start-ups have unveiled or will unveil low-cost systems; entry by other PBX manufacturers and manufacturers of stand-alone systems seems imminent. Prices have declined to the point where companies with as few as 100 to 200 employees can consider themselves viable candidates for voice messaging systems. Greater Awareness

The entry by larger manufacturers into the voice messaging market has helped to heighten user awareness, so that more organizations now intentionally include voice messaging capability when they purchase a business communications system. The growth in the user bases is self-perpetuating because those businesses which are uncertain of the value of voice mesaging can see its benefits to competitors. One such advantage is most evident in competing organizations--like sales offices--who are trying to close a transaction and the fast flow of information becomes critical. The employees of the sales office with voice messaging can communicate more quickly and accurately than the office dependent upon traditional messaging routines.

As telecommunications and office automation companies develop voice messaging systems, they are integrating them with related products. As an example, Rolm's PhoneMail voice store-and-forward system shares hardware with the Rolm Business Communications System (CBX), thereby lowering the price to the customer. Even more important is the integrated functionality between telephony and voice messaging.

Voice messaging can be designed to work with other features as well as with other CBX-based applications, such as automatic call distribution, hotel property management systems, or radio paging systems. If the business communications manufacturer has executive workstations--such as the Rolm Cypress personal communication terminal--that are integrated with the CBX, the workstations can be integrated with voice messaging to improve the speed and flexibility of the voice messaging user interface.

Manufacturers have also begun to integrate voice messaging with general office automation packages. Sperry and DEC have announced their intentions to link their voice message offerings with packages such as Sperrylink and DEC's All-in-One. Other vendors will inevitably move in the same direction. When interfaced to such products as electronic mail, voice messaging can provide enhanced functionality. In the future, one common enhancement will be to allow a user to create a text message, annotate the text with voice comments, and send the whole voice-plus-text package to another user.

Voice messaging is a tool that can change the way users do business because it permits effective communication where it could not previously exist.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Crowe, J.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1984
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