Voicemail. Honestly, it’s the thing of nightmares. It used to be something that was new and cool, a way for people to leave you a voice message in the mobile age, the same way we used to with answering machines back in the 1980s and 90s.
However, far from being cool, voicemail is almost always an inconvenience or a downright pain in the ass.
For me and countless others, I get many calls during the day. Some I answer, some I don’t, and some I can’t. Those calls that I miss almost always go through to my carrier’s provided voicemail service, and frankly the experience isn’t great. Usually, you end up with one of these outcomes:
- Callers don’t want to leave a message and so hang up if you don’t answer – your carrier may or may not send you an annoying “You missed a call from 04xx” which you’ll have as a notification in addition to the “Missed call” notification from your phone app.
- Callers get through to your voicemail, but hang up and you end up with a blank voicemail message.
- Callers leave a message, meaning you either have to call the voicemail number to check it or (depending on your phone / carrier) you might have a “visual voicemail” service that lets you play back messages.
Frankly, every one of these outcomes is annoying. If I miss a call, I don’t need 30 notifications. One is enough. If callers hang up, I don’t need blank messages – it’s a waste of my time checking them. If people do actually leave a message, I have to dial up and listen (or click and listen) but it takes time. Surely there’s a better way?
This was a solved problem years and years ago; instead of diverting to a simple voicemail service, why not divert your unanswered calls to a receptionist who could take a brief message and page you, SMS you or email you? These services are (or at least were) great, but they’re not cheap – from $15 a month plus call charges of a couple of dollars a pop, it quickly gets expensive. Plus .. some people don’t like talking to an actual receptionist and simply hang up. You get charged, but no benefit from it.
Enter Norwood System’s World Voicemail.
This app – at home on iPhone and Android – allows you to sign up for a 3rd party voicemail service, with simple instructions to set up your call forwarding. Honestly, it takes a few minutes to set up end to end.
So it’s a new voicemail service … so what? What does it offer that your carrier’s free (and crap) service does not?
- You can have a variety of greetings pre-set, and change between them at whim. Want a morning one? You can. Change it in the afternoon? Sure. Want one for special days? Why not. You can see them all and manage them easily in the app.
- What if someone rings and actually wants to leave a message? Great – they get your greeting, the all-too-familiar beep, and leave a message.
- That’s where the magic happens – your voicemail gets a few special treatments:
- It gets transcribed from the caller’s language (it defaults to English, but if you typically receive calls in languages other than English, you can change it) into text.
- That text can be sent to you via an in-app notification or an email (to one or more recipients).
- You can also hear the message – in case the transcription gets it wrong – in the app, and call the other party back directly.
- What if the call is spam? World Voicemail will flag it as spam, and won’t notify you as loudly or send you emails. This means you won’t get unnecessarily annoyed.
- What if it’s urgent? World Voicemail’s AI can determine if a call is urgent and flag it accordingly, letting you listen to the more pressing messages first. It does fairly well, listening for words like urgent, soon, today, etc. but it looks for context too. It’s pretty clever.
For me, this opens a world of possibilities to make my phone use less annoying. First up, all my voicemails get sent through to my email so – in one simple place – I can see when people are trying to get ahold of me. My email system can also intercept these messages and send an SMS if needed, or if I know I’m going to be flat out, I can forward the voicemails easily to someone else to action.
The main thing? I can actually be attentive to my messages and not waste time dialing into 101 / 121 / whatever your carrier uses.
This costs $5.99 a month, $14.49 for three months, or $49.99 for a year (which works out around $4.16 a month. It costs around the same as a cup of coffee, and for me, it’s super convenient. The app is a cinch to use, the setup was seamless, and my productivity has jumped already.
If you too are looking for a way to better manage the list of people who ring you that you can’t always get to, I suggest you look no further.