Unified Messaging Streamlines Inboxes
The wide range of communications options small business owners enjoy has led to a related need to check a variety of incoming messages from landline and mobile voice mail, email, and fax machines - often from more than one account. To help business owners manage the deluge of messages easily and efficiently, unified messaging systems bring all of those messages into a single inbox.
With unified messaging, your messages are stored as digital files that can be accessed in your email inbox, or read to you over the phone. For instance, voice mail messages are recorded and transcribed using speech-to-text technology. You can receive an email message with the text of the voice mail message, along with a sound recording, delivered as an attachment that you can play on your computer.
Receiving the message in both formats gives you the chance to listen to a sound file in case the voice mail message isn't understood clearly by the voice recognition software that created the transcription (the process is generally automated).
Messages delivered to your inbox can easily be passed along to colleagues. If a customer leaves a message asking a specific question, you can add any notes and forward the message to the most appropriate staff member.
Viewing voice mail messages in the same inbox as email messages gives business owners the ability to read or play the most important messages first. Because you see all of your messages on a single screen, it's easy to scan your inbox to identify priority customers or topics at a glance.
If you're out of the office, unified messaging services also provide text-to-speech readouts of email messages. When you dial in to your voice-mail inbox, you can choose to have selected email messages read over the phone. You might not want to listen to every message, but you can hear the text of important messages.
Unified messaging systems also offer a number of customizable notification rules. For instance, when you're traveling, the system can notify you when a high-priority customer leaves a voice mail message.
Unified messaging systems can also incorporate incoming fax inboxes. Faxes will appear in your inbox as email messages, with the fax available for viewing as an attachment. By dialing in, you can also hear the header and delivery information for incoming faxes (because the fax itself is delivered as an image file, the unified messaging system is unable to read it out loud).
Unified messaging is offered via a monthly subscription fee by telecom providers, with the option to purchase additional storage.