Every now and then I find a service which, despite the pains of getting it configured, delivers immediate “ah ha” value from the first few times you use it. I have been using Simulscribe for about a day now and I think it’s great.
Simulscribe’s basic value proposition is very simple. If someone calls you on the phone and you aren’t able to pick up, the caller’s voicemail message gets transcribed into text and I get an email with the transcribed text and a WAV file of the actual recording. It works as advertised, even if the setup process is a bit clunky.
My only real gripe with Simulscribe is the getting started process. To sign up for Simulscribe, I went to their web form, put in my phone number, carrier, and some basic billing information. After signing up, I got an email from Simulscribe with registration instructions. To get the system configured, I had to enter a 14-digit code into my phone to basically enable voicemail forwarding to the Simulscribe service. I then called a number that Simulscribe provided and recorded a new voice greeting for callers and set up my voicebox. My sense is that these steps would have deterred an average user, but the branding on the site leads me to believe that they are really shooting for the smartphone set.
When callers try to reach me and get routed to voicemail, they get a prompt that tells them their voicemail message will be transcribed by Simuslcribe.com. After they leave a message, I get an email with both a text transcription of the message as well as an attached WAV file of the actual message. So far, the transcription has been excellent — all of the messages that I have received were transcribed verbatim. My only gripe is that I can’t actually listen to the WAV files when I get the text on my Blackberry Pearl – that option only seems to work well on the computer.
Overall, I think that Simulscribe is a good product. I am not yet sure that I am willing to pay the $9.95 monthly fee (it only includes 40 messages) and $0.25 per additional message. That seems high and I would encourage the company to look at an all-you-can-transcribe fee that would give me more control — sadly, I can’t meter how many people want to leave me messages. Why not bump up the price a bit and give me all I can eat? 40 messages per month just ends up being 1.3 messages per day – that’s not a lot for a heavy phone user.
After a full day of using the service and exchanging several emails with Simulscribe’s customer service, I have to say that they have really good customer service. I would also have to say that this service has solved two other problems that I had basically assumed were unsolvable. First, I have always had to save important voicemail messages to retrieve important phone numbers or as a voice to-do list of people to call back and things to do. I would have loved a better way to manage my voicemail messages other than save the ones that need to be addressed – eventually you run out of voicemail space.
If you use your carrier-provided voicemail service, I think the most kind thing I can say about the UI is that it is not completely broken. Trying to move between messages, search for a particular message, or otherwise navigate the modern voicemail box is just an awful experience. I have been really looking for a better way to index and search my voicemail and to keep messages longer than Cingular’s deletion policies allow. Instead of waiting for someone to design a better voicemail system, I love the fact that the Simulscribe team has built a product that allows me to move from a medium that’s not designed for search and retrieval (my voicemail inbox) to one that is optimized for that (my Gmail inbox). I finally have the nirvana of being able to save voicemail messages and search them just like I do with email.