Visual Voicemail Confusion

My wife and I have used Vonage for our home telephone service for several years.  Overall we’ve been very pleased with the service.  It was especially useful when we were living in Mexico.

One of the great features is the way that voice mail shows up with your email as an attachment.  I use a Blackberry that isn’t capable of playing a .wav file so when I’m on the road this feature is only useful to help show me who called so I can call them back.

Recently they introduced a feature called “Visual Voicemail” where for $0.25 they will transcribe your  voice mail and add it to the message along with the .wav file.  This seemed like a great idea, so I signed up for the service.  I’m not sure if there are real people doing the transcription like Jott or if it is being done by some type of voice recognition software.

Whatever system they use, it doesn’t seem to deal very well with Texas accents. Most of the messages have errors but it is possible to get the general idea of what was being said. However, this is the transcription of a message from a native Texan:

“Oh. Wow that’ll out 810 dollars. Me. I’ve many in. Right. I. Calling he talked i can’t i you know that got enough match. I can making i because i had like i kept the right. They tried and and d yet. On to the car she wants nothing happens it i can’t like it. Click accounts. Top box enter and then. I was like. I don’t have to work at i ma’am right wing it. Sounds really crazy. In. Version. I was calling from. Access. He is working. That weekend or christmas which is usually what like at. Which actually can exit out at the end of it. Come up before christmas. That. I wanna do it’s gonna plant i you know you i think even trying you know how many telling her that we can a person to 7 thirteen worry. Weekly. When. We he and he said that often is that is very try decided to connect. Like down there. Up. Hon any anyway. About that. Indiana. i think that’s it. Upcoming coming again. Kind of right now right. Wow. 1 night. but. I have. Right it seems like we don’t you like a common ever i got. Ninety i.”

I read the message several times and even read it while playing the wave file.  I have absolutely no idea how they came up with this transcription.  The punctuation leads me to believe that this was done by a real live person.

Somewhere in India there are probably a few people joking about what horrible accents American’s have and how it is impossible to understand what they are saying.


  1. agh3 says

    I’ve had the same thoughts over the last couple of months. When I first signed was great…but the ‘translations’ have gotten progressively worse..and this is with most “non-accent” Chicago area folks ( accent that I can hear ).

    I sent a complaint into their support department and their response was as unintelligible as the voicemail translation I was complaining about. Still…95% of the time I can get the jist of what’s being said. I like responding from my Treo to a voicemail message to the person’s email address and they want to know how I did that.

  2. Alf says

    As a native Texan, I’m dying to see a follow-up where you listen to the actual voicemail and share at least some small snippets of the actual message. :-)

  3. Mark Shead says

    I’ll have to see if I can dig up the original message. I agree with agh3 that the times it does work correctly make it worth the times when it doesn’t.

    @Bernard – I could probably ask for a refund for my $0.25, but I doubt if it is really worth the trouble.

    What is funny is that sometimes they just say they can’t transcribe it and don’t charge anything. I’m not sure why they thought they could transcribe this one.

  4. says

    Good post. Visual Voicemail is a great productivity tool.

    This may not help your current situation, but CallWave offers both a transcription service and visual voicemail for your cell phone. The CallWave transcription service, Vtxt, is free, as well as Visual Voicemail that can be accessed by email, on a personal PhonePage, or through widgets compatible with Apple, Google, Yahoo!, and Vista. The Vtxt can be sent to your cell phone as a text, or your email, or both. There is also an SMS widget that allows users in the United States to send text messages to each other for free.

    I am a product manager at CallWave and I thought that given the discussion, your readers might be interested in these productivity tools. We do not currently offer full transcription of messages, instead focusing on the gist, to allow the user to see if the call is important or not.

  5. Mark Shead says

    @Phil – Thanks for the heads up. I tried Callwave out awhile back and was pretty impressed. I’ll have to checkout the Vtxt feature.


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