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SmartTools: How To Get Out Of (Your Own) Voice Mail Jail
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By Rich Karpinski

Chances are you're managing a few voice mailboxes today -- home, cell phone, work, (work cellphone) etc. New Web-based services help small business owners keep better track of all the people trying to get in touch with them by voice mail.

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg takes a look at a few of these services this week, a clear signal that they're becoming more mainstream.

Here's a few services worth considering:

Grand Central




Probably the best known of such services (in large part because this start-up was recently acquired by Google), Grand Central provides a comprehensive way to manage all your incoming calls. The service gives you a new phone number. Great, right? Another phone number. But the magic is that via its Web site you then associate that number with all your other phone numbers (present and future). The service then helps you manage all incoming calls (routing them between phones, choosing which calls to answer, etc) and also provides a common voice mail box for all your numbers. On the voice mail side, you get the Web equivalent of the iPhone's visual voice mail feature -- you can pick and choose what voice mail's you want to hear and/or respond to. Grand Central is in private beta now but is expected to open up soon.

YouMail




With YouMail, you can -- via a phone- or Web-based interface -- save your voice-mail messages, email your saved messages via audio files, share messages using a URL link,and more. Another option, DitchMail, lets you block calls and voice mails from certain users. The service is free and available now.

Simulscribe




Simulscribe is one of a number of voice-to-text translation services that have emerged to take the voice out of voice mail. With so many of us working these days mainly online, dialing into voice mail can be a pain and a break from your regular workflow. Simulscribe replaces voice mail by using voice transcription software to turn voice mails into text and then forwarding it to you via email or text message. In addition, a recording in .wav format is attached to the email so you can listen to the message or file it away. Simulscribe starts at $9.95 per month for 40 messages.

Voice mail alternatives may not be for everyone. But with voice mail quickly becoming a lot like faxes -- you have to pay attention to it but it's a pain -- voice mail management services are something a smart biz might want to check out.


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