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New App Brings Social Media to Standard Voicemail

Anana, in conjunction with Alcatel-Lucent and its Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories subsidiary, has created a new voicemail application that brings together traditional voice messaging with Web 2.0 and social media in a mashup of technology that can, for example, deliver Twitter and Facebook updates to callers.

Instead of hearing the standard Sorry, Ted is not available; please leave a message after the tone, a caller hears: Welcome to Its4u. You can leave a message in just a second, but quickly, before you do, let's check Twitter and Facebook ... Twitter says "Hi, I am in a meeting in town until 3:30 p.m.”... and Facebook says “Having fun with the family for the weekend at the beach”...So what's so important that you just have to leave a message? You know what to do....BEEP”

The called party no longer has to worry about updating his voicemail greeting each time his status or location changes. Text-to-speech technologies convert status updates from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, RenRen, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites to audio that is played as part of the voicemail greeting. Callers then record their messages, which are saved in MP3 format and converted to text. The called party gets an email and SMS call notification with the transcribed voice message; he also receives the recorded MP3 as an attachment.

The original voicemail message recordings are still stored on the underlying message storage system, and can even be played, viewed, and deleted through a visual voicemail application on smartphones. The messages, plus all details of missed calls or callers who heard the users’ service update from Twitter or Facebook but didn't leave a message are also listed. The Its4u service can also act as a network concierge, offering auto-attendant functions.

Its4u uses the Genesys Voice Platform and the Converged Messaging System (CMS) from Alcatel-Lucent. It supports any mix of speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies from leading vendors like Nuance Communications, Loquendo, AT&T, and IBM. The application can be skinned in any professional voice talent.
Its4u is initially being offered to carriers and telephone service providers as a natural extension to “vanilla” voice messaging, says Dave Tidwell, chief operating officer at Anana, which is based in England. Carriers will set their own pricing for this offering.

There is no client-side application. The application requires no handset- or telephone-specific client. It’s all carrier-side and works with all phones—fixed or mobile.
“Its4u rekindles the relevance of voice messaging in our new social media-entwined world,” Tidwell writes in an email. “It gives the carrier the chance to once again innovate on voice messaging, which, after all, has changed little in the last 25 years.

“The bottom line is voice messaging is a cost center for most carriers. They can no longer charge for it. It is suffering reduced usage. It is not used at all by the millennials,” Tidwell explains.  “Carriers are desperate to embrace social media at the dial tone. Its4u gives them one of many options to express their subscribers’ social-network in telephony interactions.” 

Though largely geared toward individual users, Tidwell sees business call center uses for the Its4u application as well.
“You phone Verizon with a bill enquiry. You are put into a queue for the call center. You are told Your call is very important to us. Your expected wait time is four minutes. Please hold for the next available specialist
,” he relates.
“Wouldn’t it be better for the following to happen......?
Your call is really important to us. We expect a short four-minute hold for the next available specialist. While you wait, here’s our latest tweet ...”Verizon is now offering the iPhone and Windows 7 smart phones.” Would you like to stay on the call to learn more about this after you’ve done? ...
The caller says “Yes,” and Verizon gets a cross-sell opportunity done during what would normally just have been redundant music on hold.
“So, Its4u builds momentum for business, telecoms, and consumers and adds value in interactions by allowing people and companies to express elements of their social media strategy at the dial tone,” he concludes.

Anana, Alcatel-Lucent, and Genesys are currently negotiating with a number of telephone carriers in the United States and Europe to begin offering Its4u to their subscribers. “It has only been ready for market for the last month or so, and the sales lifecycle has just begun,” Tidwell says. “It is proving itself remarkably well in the interest and activity around the theme.”

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