Vonage Visual Voice Mail Hands On (Verdict: Mixed Success)

VoIP telephone service provider Vonage just began offering Visual Voice Mail, a text transcription service that turns all of your voicemail messages into text that's immediately emailed to you. Using a combination of speech-to-text software and human transcribers, Vonage is charging 25 cents per transcription, which could end up getting expensive if you have a lot of voicemails. We gave the service a try, with inconsistent results.

Our first test call was from a landscaping service that we used here at the Midwest Test Facility three years ago. See if you can decipher the meaning of this message:

"Good Afternoon this is linda for me well branded sign I'm i'm getting a hold of Truly whites residents or Company Evil goes out your neighborhood and he said that one you're properties looks like it could Use some pruning it's been three years now since we were out there And well wondering if you'd wanna a proposal from us Please give me a call At two six two two four four Nine four zero zero And let us know if that Is something you would like for us to do Thanks I'll wait for your call back up right of"
As you can see, just missing a few words can make the entire message unintelligible, turning the caller's organization into "Company Evil." Ha.

Then a second message came in, and this one fared a little better:

"Hey, it's Kim. I'm calling about lunch today. I was just calling to see if it was alright if we met at 12:30 instead of 12, 'cause I (??) have to work till 12 and I'm (??) but I can be there by 12:30, no problem. If that gonna be a problem for you, can you please give me a call back. Otherwise, I will see you at the (??)'s place at 12:30. I look forward to seeing you. I hope that's gonna be okay. Talk to you soon. Bye-bye."
Now you're talking. Except for those question marks where the software couldn't figure out what was being said, this worked out really well.

We wish the implementation was a little closer to perfect for these transcriptions, but the idea of having your voicemails delivered to you in text form is highly appealing. Imagine in a meeting, you could a quickly glance at the text of all your voicemails and immediately catch up with what's going on.

However, that $.25 price for each transcription is just not cost-effective enough. If you get a dozen voicemails a day, your monthly tab would hover around $90 for this convenience. We're thinking more along the lines of 5 cents apiece would make it more practical. We're canceling the service right away.