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April 6, 2005 12:02 AM

Broken: Voice mail interface

Carl Myhill writes: This is regarding the New Zealand Telecom Call Minder system, which is an answerphone alternative.

If you pick up the receiver and hear rapid beeps, it means someone has left you a new message. Sometimes when you dial through to the system, it first tells you that you have messages which are past their expiry date - you can have to go through several such old messages before you get to your most recent message!

In the audio clip I have attached, it takes 49 seconds to get to hear the latest message, even though I chopped out the 'expired' message. If you have several expired messages, you might have to wait minutes before you get to the recent ones!

This is terrible design!

Click to hear the audio file.


I had a similar problem with the voice mail on my cell phone. One day I got a notification I had a voice mail, when I went to listen to it, all I could hear was rustling sounds - presumibly someone had accidentally switched on their phone in their pocket and ended up dialing me.

Unfortunately there was no way with that particular system to delete a message without listening to the entire thing, which (depending on how long it was until the caller noticed) could have been quite a while. And new voice messages were appended after it.

In the end, I bought a new phone.

Posted by: Alden Bates at April 6, 2005 03:55 AM

Don't need to hear the audio file, I can just listen to my own auotmated call-answer service here in Canada. It is aggravating, but the alternative would leave old messages piled high because I'd never take the time to delete them.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at April 6, 2005 08:47 AM

Another aggravation with the phone company vice mail systems is the lack of uniformity in commands. On some systems, you use 7 to delete, others a 3. If you have multiple voicemails, such as one on a home line and one on a cell line, this can be exasparating.

Posted by: FLyingASHtrays at April 6, 2005 10:34 AM

Another aggravation with the phone company voice mail systems is the lack of uniformity in commands. On some systems, you use 7 to delete, others a 3. If you have multiple voicemails, such as one on a home line and one on a cell line, this can be exasparating.

Posted by: FLyingASHtrays at April 6, 2005 10:35 AM

Stupidity again reigns supreme in the technology world. And would you please avoid double posting?

Posted by: nickd at April 6, 2005 12:31 PM

I can't check out the audio file at work thanks to the firewall settings, but I feel your pain thanks to the new VoIP system installed here a few months ago. When it's actually working (my phone has to reboot itself every few days because it lost connection to the server) it sounds great. The voicemail system is the biggest problem.

When I check voicemail from my phone, it still prompts me to log in by typing my phone number and PIN. How broken is that?

Then it tells me how many messages I have that are marked for deletion and will be deleted in x number of days. If I deleted them, why are they still there? So far we haven't found a way to kill them entirely, just wait for the cleanup process to take care of them.

Sometimes it will tell me how many new messages I have and then stop there. After a few moments of silence, a voice will say "To hear your messages, press 2". I'm checking my voicemail to listen to the new messages! Why would I have to press another button to accomplish this!?

And apparently there are so many options that certain actions require a two-digit code, like to delete a message (a.k.a. mark for deletion) is 7-6, but to save a message you press 9. Makes sense, right?

Posted by: Manni at April 6, 2005 12:32 PM

FLyingASHtrays: YES. It's extremely frustrating because my university voice mail uses completely different shortcuts than my mobile phone's voice mail, and I can never keep it straight what keys do what on which.

This lack of standard commands is particularly annoying when dealing with mobile phone voice mail, for obvious reasons. Just tell me what keys to press, so I don't have to be charged for another minute of airtime waiting for the prompt!

And Manni, your office's voice mail sounds like the same system used by my school... here, it'll tell you what extension the message is from and when it was left, but you have to press 1 to actually play the message itself. And it's 76 to delete a message here as well. Do you have to enter 83 to log out of the system, too?

Posted by: codeman38 at April 6, 2005 01:23 PM

i just hit # 3(d) witch is delet over and over

i hate old mssges if it were important they will call back lol

Posted by: me at April 6, 2005 03:06 PM

There are usually (sometimes?) manuals that have all the key codes and such. On my answering system, you press 3 to jump ahead in the message, and 3-3 to skip to the end of it.

Posted by: someone at April 6, 2005 06:10 PM

For Bell Call Answer, you press 7 to delete a message.

Of course, you have to listen to the whole thing. Well, not quite. If you tap 77 quickly, you will delete the message immediately without any further ado.

Posted by: dej at April 6, 2005 08:39 PM

Nick: "And would you please avoid double posting? "

Are you the internet police? This was unnecessary - it was an accident. Perhaps you could avoid being a jerk.

Posted by: FLyingASHtrays at April 6, 2005 08:46 PM

On our voice mail system, you press '3' to delete the current message. Unfortunately, if you accidentally press the key twice, it deletes the next message, without asking for confirmation, and without any chance of getting it back.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm terribly impressed with all the new telephony infrastructure that has so quickly been implemented in recent years, but it certainly seems that manufacturers have dedicated far too few resources to usability.

Posted by: lomedhi at April 6, 2005 10:26 PM

Actually FlyingASHtrays double post wasn't a double post, it was a correction if you look in the first it says "vice" and the second one says "voice".

Posted by: Andy Hoffman at April 7, 2005 11:27 AM

Well, he should just say he meant voice instead of vice.

Posted by: poster who just had a mental relapse at April 7, 2005 01:13 PM

This is why u go 2 the store and buy a $15 answering machine at the store

Posted by: unknown at April 7, 2005 03:52 PM

The 15 dollar answering machine won't take a messege while your on line or on the phone.

The voice mail will, that is the difference between the two.

Posted by: zip at April 8, 2005 01:52 PM

nice accent! i guess i never really thought about giving computers british accents.

Posted by: Bob at April 8, 2005 11:51 PM

What? No one said it WASN'T broken? Hallelujah

Posted by: T-1000 at April 11, 2005 07:21 PM

All corporate phone system menu designers should be put on the same boat and sunk out in the middle of a lake. They all suck. Cell phones are nearly as bad. Here are a few funny ones from the "Quick Reference Guide" that comes with our corporate phones:

To retreive your messages, dial 7853

To record a greeting dial 4312

To record an extended absence greeting dial 432 from the main menu.

To change detail level of system prompts (whatever that means) dial 4213 then 1 for new users, 2 for experienced users and 3 for expert users

Posted by: Giraffe's Husband at April 13, 2005 07:03 PM

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