Turn voice mail into emails with PhoneTag

In our email-driven environment, voice mail is pretty inefficient. Think about this for a second: voice mail involves all of these steps:

  • Sender makes a call
  • No one answers
  • Sender leaves a voicemail
  • Recipient is notified of new message
  • Recipient calls voice mail, enters password
  • Recipient hears message
  • Recipient returns call
  • And frequently, the cycle begins again

Email, in comparison, looks like this:

  • Sender sends email
  • Recipient is notified of new message
  • Recipient returns email at his or her convenience

And while some conversations are still better conducted over the phone, it seems clear that there are benefits to making voice mail act a little more like email. And that’s exactly what PhoneTag, when of my new favorite productivity tools, does.

I first discovered PhoneTag after watching this “Getting Things Done” video by Jeff Goldstein:

That led me to call Verizon to see if they offered something like the feature from Rogers Wireless mentioned in the Goldstein video. No dice (although the Verizon rep I spoke to seemed to think they should offer it.) Verizon does offer something called “Visual Voice Mail,” but as I learned in this RIMarkable blog post, that feature merely gives you a text representation of who called, not what they said.

And, like RIMarkable’s Robb Dunewood, I believe that feature is worth the money. If you want to test it for yourself, PhoneTag offers a 30-day trial (it’s normally only 7 days, so you’ll want to use this link). I’m guessing you’ll find that it makes you a little more efficient, a little more productive and a little less dependent on voice mail.

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2 Responses to Turn voice mail into emails with PhoneTag

  1. Eric Hall says:

    Anthony – nice post.

    I’ve been using Google Voice for quite a while now. It is a free service that does just about everything you would want to do with Voice Mail / Phone / Etc.

    It does require using a new number.

    But, here’s what I do. I have basically stopped giving out my cell phone number. Instead, I just give out my google voice number. Then I have my google voice ring my cell phone (or other phones, depending on my availability). If I don’t answer, then the caller gets my GOOGLE voice mail. After leaving a message, Google e-mails me a transcript of the message, including the phone number and name (if they are in my address book) of the caller.

    I can set up personal messages for different numbers, route different callers to different numbers (i.e. my wife always gets my cell phone, business contacts always ring my office number, etc.).

    It is really a pretty amazing system and very similar to what was described here.

    Only drawback is that the transcripts that are e-mailed to me are about 60% accurate.

  2. ajjuliano says:

    Hey, Eric–thanks for your comment. I neglected to mention Google Voice, but I’m glad you did. It’s a great service, with the added bonus of routing all your calls to your phones. PhoneTag works better for me for now because my cell and office phone numbers are pretty well established, but your comment (and @kmullett’s via Twitter) reminded me that I may need to start promoting my Google Voice number as a first point of contact.

    BTW, I have found that the transcribed messages from PhoneTag are nearly 90% accurate. Only one so far was unable to be transcribed–and after listening to it, I’m sure it was from someone who “butt dialed” me.

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