Voice mail interface
US 20020191753A1
(19) United States
(12) Patent Application Publication (10) Pub. No.: US 2002/0191753 A1
(43) Pub. Date:
Valco et al.
Dec. 19, 2002
Related US. Application Data
(54) VOICE MAIL INTERFACE
(63)
(75) Inventors: Larry Lee Valco, Pleasanton, CA (US);
Continuation of application No. 09/558,292, ?led on
Apr. 25, 2000, noW Pat. No. 6,442,243.
Sherrill J. Packebush, Austin, TX
(US); John Payton Beans, Oakland,
Publication Classi?cation
CA (US)
Correspondence Address:
GREENBLUM & BERNSTEIN, P.L.C.
1941 ROLAND CLARKE PLACE
(51)
Int. Cl? .................................................... ..H04M 1/64
(52)
Us. 01. .......................................................... .. 379/671
(57)
RESTON, VA 20191 (US)
ABSTRACT
A method for interfacing a subscriber to a voice mail
component of a telecommunications system is provided. The
method includes playing messages to the subscriber When
(73) Assignee: SBC TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES,
INC., Austin, TX (US)
(21) Appl. No.:
the subscriber is in a message revieW area and providing a
10/166,654
plurality of functions to the subscriber While the messages
are playing and including an option of accessing a settings
area. The method further includes placing the subscriber in
Jun. 12, 2002
sequentially listing a series of persistent settings features
When the subscriber is in the settings area.
a settings area in response to a subscriber’s command and
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US 2002/0191753 A1
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
VOICE MAIL INTERFACE
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED
APPLICATION
[0001] This application is a continuation of US. patent
application Ser. No. 09/558,292, Which Was ?led Apr. 25,
2000, the content of Which is incorporated herein in its
entirety.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
[0002]
1. Field of the Invention
[0003] The present invention relates to the ?eld of tele
communications. More particularly, the present invention
used, it is often forgotten or thought to not exist. As a result,
most users eventually learn hoW to change their greeting,
and little else.
[0009] Conventional voice mail interfaces are also saddled
With draWbacks When adding a neW setting. In order to add
a neW setting, several decisions are required. First, the
location in the decision tree must be selected. Second, hoW
to restructure neW and existing features to attempt to main
tain consistency must be determined. Third, hoW to inform
subscribers of the neW setting must be decided. That is, the
basic architecture of the service must be redesigned When
adding neW features to the service.
[0010]
The Message Center, a voice mail system available
relates to a voice mail interface having a non-hierarchical
interface structure that permits a user to access voice mail
from Paci?c Bell Telephone Co., is a conventional menu
driven voice mail program. As With all conventional voice
mail interfaces, the user must develop a basic mental map
features Without having to memorize commands.
before being able to easily navigate from state to state. The
[0004] 2. Background Information
[0005] When a user subscribing to a voice mail service
accesses a voice mail system, (for example, to listen to a
recorded message), the user interacts With a voice mail
interface. Typically, the user enters a passWord to access a
voice mailbox and then enters a command (for example,
presses a key on the telephone touchpad) to play a message
or to enter a settings area.
[0006] Traditional settings areas rely heavily on menus. To
change a setting, the user “navigates” to the appropriate area
and modi?es the setting. The user then “navigates” back to
other functions. As seen in FIG. 1, conventional placement
of functions and settings in tree-like menus requires that the
user be in the right place at the right time to perform any
function. For example, the user accesses a main menu after
calling into the system and being validated. From the main
menu, the user can access various states/settings areas by
pressing 1 to revieW messages, 2 to send a message, 3 to
access a personal pro?le, 4 to set greetings, 5 to access a
groups function, or 11 to scan, i.e., revieW envelope infor
mation for all messages. To return from each state to the
previous state, the user presses the * key. Thus, in order to
return to the main menu from replying to a message, the user
presses the * key tWice, once to return to the message revieW
typical user Will invent and share “shortcuts” that alloW a
function in one state to be immediately accessed from
another state. An example is using 3-3-7 to erase a message.
This shortcut spans tWo major program states: message
listening, in Which 3-3 means “go to the end” and 7 means
“reduce volume”; and message disposition after the message
has played, in Which 7 means “erase.” Notice in the midst of
3-3-7 that the 7 key changes meaning. A user must under
stand that just pressing 7 during a message Will not erase it
and that the user must ?rst go to the menu that folloWs the
message and then erase the message.
[0011]
It is more user friendly to alloW any command to be
issued at any time (Where practical). The Message Center
and CallNotes, a voice mail system available from South
Western Bell Telephone Co., took a step in this direction by
collapsing message listening and message disposition into a
single state (you can erase a message during and after a
message). HoWever, a system is still needed to take this
approach further. That is, a system is desired that reduces the
number of states or modes of the application, gives promi
nence to commonly used functions, at the expense of less
used or advanced-user functions, and is as similar as pos
sible to the current interface.
[0012]
It is knoWn that only about ten percent of voice
area (after ?nishing the reply), and once to return from the
mail users Will look at the user’s manual. It is also knoWn
that calls to customer service are a signi?cant expense. But
message revieW area to the main menu.
perhaps the most expensive consequence of complex voice
[0007] As can be seen, users often have to go up and doWn
the typical voice mail options tree structure to ?nd a desired
function. For example, if a user revieWing messages Would
like to set a passWord, the user must press the * key to leave
customer satisfaction, retention, and Word-of-mouth refer
rals.
message revieW, press the 3 key to enter the personal pro?le
face of voice mail systems. Accordingly, the present inven
area, and ?nally press the 1 key to access the set passWord
tion attempts to make every function or feature available at
mail interfaces is the effect that frustration can have on
[0013]
Therefore, a need exists to simplify the user inter
area. Similarly, the user cannot send a neW message While
all times in order to reduce the amount of learning and
revieWing messages. Instead the user must leave message
customer support time required, and to increase day-to-day
revieW and return to the main menu.
user satisfaction.
[0008] Another disadvantage of conventional menu driven
interfaces is that, due to the tree type structure and hierar
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
chical nature of the options menus, many features are nested
[0014] The present invention is further described in the
detailed description that folloWs, by reference to the noted
Within menus and are therefore not used or understood by
the majority of users. Consequently, users avoid or have
trouble changing the settings of their mailboxes. Further, the
tree type structure makes ?nding options and navigating
dif?cult, to the point Where unless the option is frequently
draWings by Way of non-limiting examples of preferred
embodiments of the present invention, in Which like refer
ence numerals represent similar parts throughout several
vieWs of the draWings, and in Which:
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
[0015]
FIG. 1 shows a state diagram of a conventional
voice mail interface; and
[0016] FIG. 2 shows a state diagram of a voice mail
interface, in accordance With an aspect of the present inven
tion.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
a previous settings feature When receiving a repeat com
mand from the subscriber. When the subscriber enters a
return command during the sequential listing of settings
features, the subscriber is returned to the message revieW
area.
[0022] In one embodiment, changing one of the settings
features includes immediately returning to the message
revieW area after the settings feature has been changed. In
addition, the series of settings features are listed in a
[0017]
In vieW of the foregoing, the present invention is
directed to simplifying the user interface to voice mail
prioritiZed order With a greetings settings feature being ?rst.
Changing one of the settings features involves sequentially
systems. The present invention includes a ?at, non-modal,
non-hierarchical interface structure. Whenever possible, the
amount of “navigation” required has been eliminated or kept
to a minimum. That is, all options and settings or placed in
a single location: the Settings Area.
[0023] According to another aspect of the present inven
[0018] An object of the present invention is to provide an
face includes a message revieW area from Where messages
are played to a subscriber, and a settings area. The message
easy to learn and convenient to use interface to a voice mail
system. In order to achieve this object, the interface does not
include a main menu, reducing navigation throughout the
interface. More speci?cally, the user can press a predeter
mined key (e.g., “0”) to enter a special Settings Area. Once
in the Settings Area, the system presents options that the user
listing parameters for changing the settings feature.
tion, an interface to a voice mail system embodied on a
computer readable storage medium is provided. The inter
revieW area is immediately accessed When the subscriber
enters the voice mail system. The settings area is accessed
from the message revieW area When the subscriber enters a
predetermined command. Multiple settings features are
sequentially accessed from the settings area; and multiple
functions are directly available from the message revieW
can select. When an option is selected, the user can set the
area. In one embodiment, the message revieW area plays a
desired preference for that option. Thus, the user need only
learn the predetermined key and the system Will then guide
subsequent message a predetermined time period after a
current message ?nishes playing, in the event that the
the user through the process. According to another aspect of
subscriber does not enter a command.
the present invention, more experienced users can press a
second predetermined key (e.g., the pound key) to quickly
skip to the setting the user needs. After completing the
setting, the user is returned to message revieW. Alternatively,
a third predetermined key (e.g., the star key) can cancel an
action and immediately return the user to message revieW.
[0019]
According to an aspect of the present invention, a
method is provided for interfacing a subscriber to a voice
mail system. The method includes immediately placing the
subscriber in a message revieW area When the subscriber
enters the voice mail system and playing messages to the
subscriber. The method also includes providing multiple
functions to the subscriber, Which are available While the
messages are playing. The method further includes placing
the subscriber in a settings area in response to a subscriber’s
[0024] A number of prompts associated With each settings
feature are provided. A ?rst prompt is played to identify the
title of each settings feature and, When the settings command
has not been entered, a second prompt is played describing
the settings feature. When the settings command has still not
been entered, the ?rst and second prompts are played again,
and When the settings command has still not been entered,
a ?rst prompt associated With a neXt command is played.
[0025] According to one embodiment, a neXt settings
feature is skipped to upon receiving a skip command from
the subscriber and a previous settings feature is repeated
When receiving a repeat command from the subscriber.
Furthermore, When the subscriber enters a return command,
the subscriber returns to the message revieW area.
settings area command, sequentially listing a series of set
tings features When the subscriber is in the settings area, and
[0026] According to one aspect of the invention, the
changing one of the settings features in response to a
of the present invention, a subsequent message is played a
predetermined time period after a current message ?nishes
after a settings feature has been changed. The settings
features also include a greetings settings feature, Which is
listed ?rst and other settings features listed in a priority
order. Sequentially listed parameters can also be provided
playing, in the event that the subscriber does not enter a
command.
for each settings feature, the parameters being for changing
the settings feature.
subscriber’s settings command. According to another aspect
[0020] Sequentially listing a series of settings features also
includes playing a prompt listing the title of each settings
feature and, When the settings command has not been
entered, playing a second prompt describing each settings
feature. When the settings command has still not been
entered, the ?rst and second prompts describing the settings
feature are again played, and When the settings command
has still not been entered, prompts associated With a subse
quent command are played.
subscriber immediately returns to the message revieW area
[0027] By providing the ?at interface of the present inven
tion, neW settings can be added to a list of settings and can
be used immediately Without special user training. The user
simply presses 0 to access the Settings Area and then either
Waits or jumps to the neW setting. Thus, the menu structure
need not be redesigned Whenever a neW setting is added.
[0028] The present invention provides business and resi
dential subscribers With access to many basic and advanced
voice mail messaging capabilities. Subscribers can receive
[0021] Sequentially listing a series of settings features
and revieW various message types, including voice mail, faX,
may also include skipping to a neXt settings feature When
and email. They can reply to a received message via Live
receiving a skip command from the subscriber and repeating
Reply/Message Direct (i.e., the sender is called directly) or
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
With a recorded message, depending upon the availability of
stamp Was not played prior to the message. This is another
the sender information. They can send a copy of a received
user-settable option having an on/off option.
message to other subscribers and non-subscribers, provided
that the received message is not marked private. They can
also record messages to be sent to both subscribers and
non-subscribers. Through the Settings Area, subscribers can
[0033] If the user does not choose to repeat, save, erase,
reply, or send a copy Within about ?ve seconds, the next
message is announced and played. This “hands free” opera
change various mailbox features and access additional func
tion facilitates Wireless and speaker phone revieW.
tionality, including: Greeting(s), PassWord(s), Erased Mes
[0034] According to the present invention, there is no
sages, Transfer to Pager, Caller Transfer, Phone Search,
Distribution Lists, Recorded Name, Time and Date Stamp,
NeW Message Noti?cation, Phone Number Nicknames, and
“main menu,” rather messages begin playing automatically.
Helpful Hints. Subscribers can also have extension mail
boxes, With one group greeting and individual extension
greetings. Other features are of course contemplated by the
present invention. In terms of overall style, the prompts are
brief and direct, alloWing focus on the messages themselves,
and making the interface feel as “light,” unobtrusive, and
forgiving as possible.
[0029]
According to one embodiment of the present inven
tion, When the user calls in to check messages for the ?rst
time, the voice mail system: presents a brief thanks, an
If a user Wants to send a neW message, access email, or
change a setting, the user may request to do so at virtually
any time. Although a number of current voice mail systems
have a system option to begin playing messages immedi
ately, these systems typically retain the main menu func
tionality but skip over it upon mailbox access. Consequently,
navigation back to the main menu is still required to send a
message or change a setting.
[0035]
Messages are classi?ed as “new” or “saved.” NeW
messages are played ?rst, then saved messages, then the
cycle repeats. A message remains neW until the user explic
introduction about What is going to happen, hoW long it Will
itly saves or erases it. Messages marked as urgent ?oat to the
top of each queue. Saved messages are aged off after a
take, and hoW it can be handled by the user. The system then
certain period.
Walks the user through steps for changing the temporary
passWord, selecting/creating a greeting, and recording a
name announcement. The system con?rms each step When
appropriate and offers the user the option to do it over. The
system also coaches the user on each feature and setting as
[0036] According to one embodiment of the present inven
tion, the folloWing functions are available during message
revieW, the most important of Which are shoWn in FIG. 2.
appropriate; and only continues to the next item When the
last item has been con?rmed. The voice mail system
Repeat (1)
Save (2)
Erase (3)
resumes initialiZation on the next call if the user hangs up
Reply (4)
before all of the settings have been presented at least once.
InitialiZation resumes Where the user left off, preventing the
Copy (5) (aka.
“forWard”)
Send neW
message (6)
Jump back in a message (7) Pause message playing Jump ahead in
user from having to redo any previously completed portion
of the initialiZation process. The initial call ends With a quick
tip on operation and a thank you, and puts the user into the
user’s mailbox on that ?rst call.
[0030]
By far the most common activity for users is
listening to neW messages, both voice and fax. If a sub
scriber has multiple phone lines for one mailbox as a feature,
message (9)
Jump to next queue
Go back to previous
Go to settings area (0) Skip a message (#)
message (1-1)
Perform Quick Reply (4-4), Print (5-5), (if an
(call a message sender
Go to email (6-6)
email or fax)
directly)
SloW doWn a message (7-7) Play time/date stamp
(8-8)
Speed up a message
(9-9)
then messages from multiple phone lines Will be available
for revieW Within a single mailbox of the present invention.
[0037]
When the user calls to listen to messages, the messages
and after a message, With a single command. In most cases,
begin playing automatically. Thus, the message revieW
a menu is played after each message that only prompts for
replay, save, and erase. Reply and copy are included When
applicable and print is included if the message is a fax or
email.
process is streamlined. Each message is numbered (“First
neW message, second neW message”), and then the time and
date that the message Was received is played (unless the user
has turned off the time/date feature from the Settings Area).
Exemplary prompts that a user might hear upon dialing their
access number include:
[0031] “You have tWo neW messages. Message one .
. . ‘Hi there, it’s Alan calling at around ?ve pm. I
guess you’re not home. I’ll call back later.’ To repeat
The user may activate each function, both during
[0038] After successfully executing “modal” commands,
i.e., commands unique to an area, such as reply, copy, send,
check time/date, or enter Settings Area, the user is returned
to the end of the current message. If a message is skipped,
saved, or erased, the system moves to the next message. The
press 1, to save press 2, to erase press 3, to reply
user can, hoWever, return to the previous message at any
time. If the user does not enter a command Within several
press 4, to send a copy press 5 . . . [?ve seconds] .
seconds from the playing of the “after message” menu, the
.
system moves to the next message.
.
Message tWo
.
.
.
”
[0032] Notice that the passWord Was not requested in this
example. As an option, the user may request that calls from
their oWn phone are not screened With a passWord. Callers
from other phones, hoWever, Would still need to enter a
passWord to obtain access. This user-settable option is
referred to as PassWord Skip. In this example, the time/date
[0039] Some branching or “modality” (the condition of
being constrained to the task at hand) cannot be eliminated.
As seen in FIG. 2, Which shoWs the primary modes of the
current design, the user is immediately placed in message
revieW. From message revieW the other major states are all
available.
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
[0040] According to an aspect of the present invention,
time to dial numbers; and alloW entry of any number up to
inactivity on the users’ part is a valid input, and should
gracefully alloW hands-free usage and exit from any func
tional modes in an appropriate manner (e.g., When listening
to emails or changing a setting, “doing nothing” Will even
tually lead the user back to voice messages). In addition,
double keystrokes cannot be relied on for mainstream usage,
and are reserved for advanced features only. To prevent a
late command, e. g., a late press of the 3 key, from erasing the
eleven digits long (if necessary, an extension is subsequently
prompted, so it can be typed along With the number).
Will noW be discussed. In order to end an address, the system
folloWing message, Which is automatically played after the
classify the numbers entered so far into one of three cat
previous message, the erase command is applied to the
previous message during the ?rst 0.5 seconds of the next
message’s number prompt. Other delay periods can be set
egories. The ?rst category is VALID, occurring When 7 or 10
based upon need.
When: 1 to 5 digits correspond to a entry in a personal
distribution list; 1 to 5 digits correspond to a valid extension;
[0041]
Individual features available in an exemplary
implementation of the present invention are noW discussed.
A reply feature, if reply information is available, can be
provided and Will cause the system to ask the user if he
Wishes to reply to the message Without entering the sender’s
[0045] The logic and timeouts used during address entry
assumes that entry is complete When one of three things
happens: the pound key is depressed, the star key is
depressed, or a time out occurs. As each digit is entered, the
system evaluates the validity of the entry. The system Will
digits are recogniZed as a subscriber, or 11 digits are entered.
The second category is MIGHT BE VALID, occurring
7 digits are entered and 1 to 3 digits are not a recogniZed area
code; or 5 digits have been entered and digit 1 is digit 3 of
the subscriber’s NXX. The numbers are classi?ed as NOT
VALID in all other cases.
phone number. When pressing the reply command, the user
[0046]
Will be prompted to record a message or to place a call
timeout criteria are used, depending on the status of the
numbers entered so far. Athree second timeout period is set
When a VALID number is entered. A seven second timeout
is set When a MIGHT BE VALID number is entered. A
?fteen second timeout period is set for all other cases.
directly back to the message originator. For sending a
recorded message, after pressing the pound key to complete
the message, options for revieW and delivery are presented.
Upon pressing the pound key to deliver the message, the
To achieve the desired behavior, three different
message is sent With a “reply sent” prompt. If a call is placed
directly to the message originator, the user can return to their
[0047] Some example situations using the above rules and
voice messages at any time by pressing the pound key tWice,
recogniZed as an extension or a list Will time out after ?fteen
seconds. One to ?ve digits recogniZed as an extension or a
or When the called party disconnects.
[0042] When a copy feature (alloWing users to transfer
received messages) is selected, the system asks the user to
address the message to one or more recipients, or a distri
bution list. When the user has programmed at least one
distribution list, the addressing prompt changes to re?ect
timeouts Will noW be discussed. One to ?ve digits not
list Will time out after seven seconds. Five digits that start
With digit three of the subscriber’s NXX Will time out after
seven seconds. Seven digits recogniZed as a subscriber Will
time out after three seconds. Seven digits not recogniZed as
a subscriber Will time out after seven seconds (as long as
digits one to three are not an area code).
this option. Distribution lists alloW a user to enter phone
numbers for a group of people. When the user decides to
send, copy, or reply, to the group, the user can address the
message to the distribution list rather than having to enter all
has been activated, an added set of prompts appear during
of the recipients’ phone numbers. The system places no
messages to be sent to people Who are not subscribers to the
minimum duration on the recorded introduction that the user
voice mail system, by ringing their phones and delivering
[0048] If Message Delivery to Non-subscribers (MDNS)
addressing. Message Delivery to Non-subscribers alloWs
is asked to record alloWing, in effect, no introduction if
the messages When the phones are ansWered. When the user
desired. After pressing the pound key to complete the
message, options for revieW and delivery are presented.
Upon pressing the pound key to deliver the message, the
requests delivery to a non-subscriber number, if charges Will
be applied (either per minute or per message) the user is
message is sent With a “copy sent” prompt. The recipient of
the message hears a single time/date stamp that re?ects the
time the message Was received.
[0043]
When a send feature is selected, the system asks the
user to address the message to one or more recipients, or a
distribution list. When the user has programmed at least one
distribution list, the addressing prompt changes to re?ect
this option. According to one embodiment of the present
invention, the message must be at least tWo seconds long.
After pressing the pound key to complete the message,
options for revieW and delivery are presented. Upon press
ing the pound key to deliver the message, the message is sent
With a “message sent” prompt. When replay is selected, the
system repeats the message that Was just played.
[0044]
The system should be as forgiving and helpful as
possible during address entry. To do this, the system is
designed to: recogniZe valid numbers Without a pound key;
recogniZe abbreviations of valid numbers; alloW plenty of
noti?ed of this fact. In addition, the system noti?es the user
that this message Will be delivered to a non-subscriber, and
Will be returned if delivery is not possible. If the number is
a valid subscriber, the above tWo steps are not executed.
[0049] According to an aspect of the present invention,
recording stops When a pound key, a star key, or a time out
occurs. Three different timeout criteria are used, depending
on the status of the recording. The time outs are designed to
provide adequate time to continue input Without being so
long that subscribers become frustrated. A period of three
seconds is set after initial silence (e.g., silence after a record
tone), after entering a recogniZed digit or number, or after
entering a single digit that is not valid. A periods of seven
seconds is set When there is silence after sound (e.g., after
recording a message or greeting) or after entering a number
of the expected length that is not valid. A period of ?fteen
seconds is set after entering a number of unexpected length.
An exemplary total recording time is 120 seconds.
[0050] Example situations using the above rules and tim
eouts folloW. A beep tone folloWed by three seconds of
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
silence re-prompts the user to begin recording after the tone.
If the user records a message and then says nothing for seven
seconds, the system acts as if the message Was then termi
nated by the pound key. If the total time allowed for the
recording is exceeded (in this example 120 seconds), the
user is informed and prompted to accept or re-record. If the
user presses the star key during the ?rst tWo seconds, the
entire action (sending, replying, etc.) is canceled. If the user
presses the star key after the ?rst tWo seconds, the user is
prompted to re-record.
[0051] The present invention Was developed in response to
the fact that users typically change one setting at a time, and
the greeting is by far the most often changed setting. The
present invention also respond to the facts that users cannot
be expected to memoriZe a different procedure for changing
each setting; and settings not very easily found are not
changed, sometimes preventing features of the mailbox from
being used. The present invention also is ?exible enough so
that more features (and thus settings) can be added in the
future, and different con?gurations of the product can have
different sets of settings.
[0052] The present invention does not require “naviga
tion” to and from features. Rather, several basic design
philosophies are adhered to Whenever practical in the Set
tings Area. For example, according to an aspect of the
present invention, menus do not lead to other menus, i.e.,
menus are only used for the setting itself, not to get to the
setting. According to another aspect, lists are treated as lists
that the user can revieW from top to bottom. That is, lists
have no arbitrary limit on the number of items (Which Would
be the case if each list item Was a choice in a menu).
Furthermore, the presence or absence of a setting does not
not have to press 0 to change the native language of the
mailbox. This is because When using the mailbox With an
unfamiliar language, it is dif?cult or impossible to ?gure out
hoW to revert to the user’s native language. For instance, if
Mandarin Chinese had been selected and the user speaks
English, the user should be able to hit 0 to enter the Settings
Area and Wait until “For English press [1]” is heard. This
situation supports the present invention’s “auto-roll” behav
ior in the Settings Area, Where the mailbox moves to the next
setting eventually if no key is pressed.
[0057] An embodiment of a Settings Area Will noW be
described. Settings are presented sequentially, one after
another, not as branches in a menu tree. Moreover, Within
each setting, parameters are also presented one at a time. As
a result of this sequential approach, the user must listen
through or skip through all of the items prior to the item
desired to be changed or added. In addition, the user is “led
through” the changes, and has feW decisions to make other
than the choices for the settings themselves. Such an
arrangement provides the advantage that, if it is determined
at a later time that the order of settings should be changed,
the order can be easily changed. According to another
aspect, each setting is con?rmed at the time it is entered or
changed. Consequently, an enhanced feeling of control and
certainty is gained.
[0058]
When a list (e.g., phone numbers in a distribution
list) is being edited, existing items are accepted, edited, or
removed ?rst. Then neW items may be entered. Conse
quently, inserting an item betWeen tWo existing items in an
effect the structure of the Settings Area.
order-sensitive list can be laborious because the user must
[0053] The neW design gives the user a simple instruction
for changing their greeting or any other setting: “Press the
[0] key.” From that point on the user is guided through and
listen to or skip ahead to the insertion position and all
subsequent items must be edited (or erased and reentered).
Fortunately, no signi?cant adverse impact of this approach
instructed about the meaning and procedure for changing
each setting.
has been identi?ed because distribution lists are the only
lists of signi?cant siZe, and they are not order-sensitive. On
[0054] According to an embodiment of the present inven
tion, the system acknoWledges that the user has pressed 0 to
enter the Settings Area. Subsequently, the system gives a
very brief set of instructions: e.g., “Press pound until you
hear the item that you Want, then press Zero to change it.” In
this embodiment, the system uses the bottom roW of keys as
user controls: the user may press the pound key to skip to the
next setting, 0 to change a setting, and the star key to leave
the settings area.
[0055] Moreover, the system returns the user to their
messages after changing a setting (it assumes that user
Wanted to change just one setting). The system leads the user
from option to option if the user does not make a choice; if
the user does nothing the user Will hear each setting tWice
and listen to a clear description of What each setting does.
the other hand, no memoriZation of list items or the location
of list items is required to modify them, easing enhancement
of the list (i.e., changing a speci?c distribution list does not
require the entry of the distribution number ?rst, although a
user can do so and go directly to the desired distribution list).
[0059] Table 1 shoWs exemplary key conventions Within
the Settings Area, Which provide for consistency and “avail
ability.”
TABLE 1
1
On/off or return to messages
1.1
1.2
Keep on/off
Change to on/off
#
O
*
1.3
Leave the Settings Area
2
Skip, change, or return to messages
That is, the system coaches/assists the user by playing a
2.1
2.2
Skip
Change
#
0
description of that setting When the user does not react to the
2.3
Return to messages
*
setting. Finally, the system places the greeting at the very top
3
of the settings area (so, a shortcut to changing the greeting
is to press 0-0) and places other settings in order of impor
For lists: keep, change, or remove, return to
messages
3.1
3.2
Keep
Change
#
0
3.3
3.4
4
Remove
Leave the Settings Area
Entering a number
3
*
number + #
tance and frequency of use.
[0056] There may be special exceptions to this approach.
For instance, after entering the Settings Area the user should
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
TABLE l-continued
that the most recently erased messages appear ?rst. Controls
within the erased message queue work identically to the new
and saved message queues, but like email the star key allows
the user to return to the main voice and fax queues. All
5
No more numbers to enter
(just) #
6
Canceling a partial recording or entry
(talk or digits) *
7
Canceling recording or entry and returning to
(just) *
save.
8
messages
Roll to next setting or item
timeout
[0078] If a user accidentally erases a message, the message
can still be retrieved and acted upon. The erased message
functions are available, including reply, copy, send, and
[0060] The settings appear in order of frequency of usage,
queue is explicitly mentioned within the Additional Options
and is conspicuous within the Settings Area (the third
so that more frequently accessed settings require as few as
setting).
possible steps. In an embodiment of the present invention
the list of settings/options (in order of appearance) includes:
[0061]
[0079] After hearing or skipping the last message, sub
scribers are explicitly prompted with a set of Additional
1. Greeting(s)—Group and extension or just
Options that list the Send, Email (when available), and
single line greeting, with options to use a system
greeting or alternate recorded greeting, for each
Settings Area options, and to hang up if the subscriber is
phone line when multiple lines are connected to a
single mailbox
[0062] 2. Change Password/Password Skip
[0063]
[0064]
[0065]
3. Erased Message queue
?nished. Within this prompt, the Change Greeting setting
and Erased Messages are mentioned with respect to the
Settings Area. An exemplary prompt states:
[0080] “End of messages. To record a message to be
sent to another subscriber, press 6. To review your
email, press 8. To change something about your
4. Reminder Messages
mailbox, such as your greeting or to review your
erased messages, press 0. If you have ?nished lis
5 . Distribution Lists
tening to your messages, you may hang up.”
[0066] 6. Helpful Hints—includes help topics on the
pound key; changing greetings; features that make
listening to messages faster; replying, copying, and
sending messages; email review; and advanced call
management features
[0067] 7. Time/date stamp on/off
[0068] 8. Transfer to Pager
[0081]
This feature allows subscribers to automatically
hear their messages and options without having to press a
key. Instead, a time out after message review options,
Additional Options (Send, Email, Settings), or after a set
ting, will move the user to the next message, set of options
(after two time outs), or help/coaching prompt (Settings
Area).
[0070]
10. Phone Search
[0082] According to an aspect of the present invention,
subscribers go through a typical initialization process the
?rst time they call their voice mail service, including chang
[0071]
[0072]
[0073]
11. New Message Noti?cations
ing the temporary password, selecting/creating a greeting,
12. Outcall Noti?cation
[0074]
14. Phone Number Nickname—allows sub
multiple phone lines connected to a single mailbox will also
record separate greetings for each phone line. For those
subscribers with extension mailboxes, the subscriber will
select an extension mailbox number, change the temporary
password, record the extension greeting, record the exten
sion name recording, and then change/record the group
greeting. This process varies slightly if the particular exten
sion mailbox is a mailbox having multiple lines, such that
each phone line greeting and name recording is set up before
the group greeting.
[0069]
9. Transfer to Attendant/Caller Transfer
and recording a name announcement. Subscribers having
13. Recorded Name
scribers to record a brief descriptive label for each
phone line (when multiple lines are connected to a
single mailbox), to be played as part of each message
header
[0075]
15. Extension number
[0076] This list “loops,” so that Greeting(s) follows Exten
sion Number. The Previous command (1-1) works in the
settings area as expected. Note that only settings that apply
will be presented. For example, if the subscriber does not
have email, then no email Helpful Hint will be presented.
Another example is if the subscriber does not have multiple
phone lines assigned to one mailbox, then Phone Number
Nickname will not be presented and the Greetings setting
will not include multiple phone line greetings.
[0083]
Once initialization is completed and messages are
received, subscribers will ?rst access any new voice and fax
messages. Subscribers can choose to bypass the new mes
sages by pressing the star key at any time. If they do not
press the star key, the new voice and fax messages will begin
autoplaying according to priority (e.g., urgent messages
?rst) and order of arrival. At any time subscribers can skip
individual messages by pressing the pound key. During or
immediately after message playback (when the message
From session to session, a queue of the most
options are explicitly presented), the subscriber can choose
recently erased messages is kept in the Settings Area. These
to do the following: replay the message by pressing 1; back
[0077]
age off after a certain time period, and the queue siZe may
be limited so that newly erased messages “bump” the oldest
ones out of the queue. Unlike every other queue, erased
messages are presented in reverse chronological order, so
up to a previous message by pressing 1-1; save the message
by pressing 2; erase the message by pressing 3; reply with
a recorded message, by pressing 4 (if recipient information
available), to a distribution list, to another subscriber(s) for
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
mailbox delivery, or to a non-subscriber(s) for delivery to
that person’s telephone; perform a Live Reply/Message
Direct Where the sender is called directly by pressing 4-4;
send a copy by pressing 5, to a distribution list, to another
subscriber(s) for mailbox delivery, or to a non-subscriber(s)
for delivery to that person’s telephone; or if the message is
a fax, print a copy of the fax by pressing 5-5.
[0084] During message playback, subscribers can also:
message queues, along With the instructions for sending
messages and accessing email.
[0090] Callers Who reach the voice mail system of the
present invention Will not necessarily knoW Whether they
have reached a voice mail service or an ansWering machine.
They Will hear either the subscriber’s recorded greeting or a
system standard greeting, depending upon What greeting the
subscriber has selected and Which phone line Was called. If
the called subscriber has extension mailboxes, the caller Will
reWind by pressing 7; sloW doWn message playing by
pressing 7-7; pause by pressing 8; receive time and date (and
if applicable, phone number nickname) information by
pressing 8-8; fast forWard by pressing 9; or speed up
?rst hear the group greeting and depending upon What
extension number is pressed, then the appropriate extension
greeting. During the greeting and the recording of a mes
message playing by pressing 9-9. Once the subscriber has
sage, bad key sequences invoke a polite error prompt and
either heard all neW messages or skipped past them, any
saved messages are autoplayed. Subscribers have the same
options during saved message playback as they do during
neW message playback.
[0085]
At any time, Whether messages are being played or
not, subscribers can: send a message by pressing 6, to a
distribution list, to another subscriber(s) for mailbox deliv
ery, or to a non-subscriber(s) for delivery to that person’s
telephone; access email by pressing 6-6; or access the
Settings Area by pressing 0. Sent, recorded reply, and copied
messages may also be marked urgent or private. Subscribers
also have the capability to revieW and record the message or
introduction.
[0086]
If a subscriber presses 6-6 to access email, the neW
and saved email messages have essentially the same order of
presentation and functionality as the other message types.
Email messages are autoplayed via text to speech. They can
be printed by pressing 5-5. Reply and copy functionality are
also possible, e. g., by sending a .Wav ?le to the email sender.
Once the last email message is played, timing out Will return
cause the greeting to be replayed. Once a caller leaves a
voice message, if the caller knoWs to press the pound key,
the caller Will have the option to revieW the message, to
re-record the message, to mark it urgent, or to mark it
private.
[0091] An advantage of the present invention is that there
is minimal keystroke duplication and consistent key assign
ment. More particularly, there are no hierarchical menu
layers and therefore the majority of key assignments stay the
same the majority of the time. Consistently, the pound key
moves to the next step/option or terminates entry, the star
key cancels or moves to a previous queue, and the Zero key
accesses the Settings Area and enables changes.
[0092] Another advantage of the present invention is that
minimal steps and number entry are required. Because of the
non-hierarchical structure, frequently performed options
require a minimal number of steps. The service also suggests
appropriate phone numbers rather than requiring subscribers
to reenter phone numbers (e.g., the service suggests the last
fax number printed to, states the phone numbers in Greetings
the subscriber to the voice/fax neW or saved message
by Telephone Number, etc.), reducing the need to enter
queues, depending upon the existence of messages and
Where the subscriber Was When ?rst entering email revieW.
[0093] The present invention also provides the ability to
[0087]
Pressing the star key at any time Will also return the
subscriber to the voice/fax neW or saved message queues.
seven or ten digit numbers.
act With no main menu. Because there is no Main Menu,
subscribers can act to send a message, retrieve Email, or
access the Settings Area at any point While revieWing
[0088] Once a subscriber presses 0 to enter the Settings
Area, the subscriber can move to each setting by pressing the
messages. This eliminates the need to be in or navigate to a
pound key or return to a previous setting by pressing 1-1.
[0094] According to another aspect of the present inven
Pressing the star key at any time Will return the subscriber
to the voice/fax neW or saved message queues, depending
upon the existence of messages and Where the subscriber
Was When ?rst entering the Settings Area. Subscribers are
presented With the name for a setting. If the subscriber does
not immediately press a key, then the prompt continues With
information describing the particular setting. If the sub
scriber still does not press a key, then the setting title and
information Will be repeated again. If the subscriber still
does not press a key, then the title for the next setting Will
be played, and so on. Subscribers can access the setting that
is being prompted by pressing Zero at any time. After
speci?c menu in order to do speci?c things.
tion, after entering a string of numbers or making a record
ing, subscribers can terminate by pressing the pound key or
by letting time out move them to the next step. The pound
key is not required, even though it is sometimes requested in
a preceding prompt.
[0095] Another advantage of the present invention is that
the ?at structure of the Settings Area explicitly presents all
features by prompting one after the other. The ?at Settings
Area makes the settings features more conspicuous, unlike
hierarchical structures in Which features are often hidden in
loWer menus. Also, options are explicitly prompted and
pressing Zero to enter a setting, various instructions are
therefore not hidden from subscribers.
presented. Once the subscriber completes the desired actions
returned to the voice/fax neW or saved message queues,
[0096] The Settings Area presents the most frequently
used and important settings ?rst, e.g., Greeting, Passcode
(Change and Home No PassWord), Erased Message Queue,
depending upon the existence of messages and Where the
subscriber Was When ?rst entering the Settings Area.
be pressed to reach the more common settings.
[0089] Subscribers end their voice mail session at any time
by hanging up. This instruction is presented at the end of the
[0097] Because of the ?at structure and minimal key
assignments, documentation Will be simple and uncluttered.
for a setting or presses the star key, the subscriber Will be
etc. This minimiZes the number of times the pound key must
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
Instructions should be easily transferable to Quick Refer
ence Cards. In addition, because the Settings Area is ?at,
settings can simply be listed Without the need to shoW paths
medium equivalent to a tangible storage medium. Accord
ingly, the invention is considered to include a tangible
and menus. Because key assignments rarely change, the
telephone keypad can be shoWn With the main key assign
including art-recogniZed equivalents and successor media,
ments.
[0098] All prompts are interruptible and Will accept data
entry before playing is complete. If a user accidentally
presses the Wrong key or decides not to complete a process,
the user can interrupt the subsequent prompt and/or cancel
With the star key, returning to the previous step or area.
[0099] According to one embodiment of the present inven
tion, the present invention operates on a Unisys mainframe
computer employing application softWare release UVMS
storage medium or distribution medium, as listed herein and
in Which the softWare implementations herein are stored.
[0104] Although the present speci?cation describes com
ponents and functions implemented in the embodiments
With reference to particular standards and protocols, the
invention is not limited to such standards and protocols.
Each of the standards represents examples of the state of the
art. Such standards are periodically superseded by faster or
more efficient equivalents having essentially the same func
tions. Accordingly, replacement standards and protocols
having the same functions are considered equivalents.
12.5, NAP 17.8, MCP 4.61. An exemplary service creation
What is claimed is:
environment is Unisys NapTool 15.1. Although the Unisys
platform is discussed, any platform/system have appropriate
component of a telecommunications system, comprising:
functionality may be substituted.
[0100] Although the invention has been described With
reference to several exemplary embodiments, it is under
stood that the Words that have been used are Words of
description and illustration, rather than Words of limitation.
Changes may be made Within the purvieW of the appended
claims, as presently stated and as amended, Without depart
ing from the scope and spirit of the invention in its aspects.
Although the invention has been described With reference to
particular means, materials and embodiments, the invention
is not intended to be limited to the particulars disclosed;
rather, the invention extends to all functionally equivalent
structures, methods, and uses such as are Within the scope of
the appended claims.
1. A method for interfacing a subscriber to a voice mail
playing messages to the subscriber When the subscriber is
in a message revieW area;
providing a plurality of functions to the subscriber, the
functions being available While the messages are play
ing and including an option of accessing a settings area;
placing the subscriber in a settings area in response to a
subscriber’s command;
sequentially listing a series of persistent settings features
When the subscriber is in the settings area; and
changing one of the persistent settings features in
response to a subscriber’s command to change the
persistent settings feature.
[0101] The present invention also contemplates including
2. The method of claim 1, in Which the playing messages
further comprises playing a subsequent message a predeter
neW features and functionality, such as features available
mined time period after a current message ?nishes playing,
With The Message Center that are not currently in the design.
in the event that the subscriber does not enter a command.
They may also include neW features such as Reminders,
contemplated, as is accommodating voice recognition.
3. The method of claim 1, in Which the sequentially listing
a series of persistent settings features further comprises
playing a prompt listing the title of each persistent settings
feature and, When a command to select the persistent settings
feature has not been entered, playing a second prompt
[0102] In accordance With various embodiments of the
present invention, the methods described herein are intended
command to select the persistent settings feature has still not
Future Delivery, Email Reply, Email Copy, and changing the
subscriber’s Ring Cycle. Finally, expansion to a Uni?ed
Messaging service <i.e., access from a personal computer, is
for operation as softWare programs running on a computer
processor. Dedicated hardWare implementations including,
but not limited to, application speci?c integrated circuits,
programmable logic arrays and other hardWare devices can
likeWise be constructed to implement the methods described
herein. Furthermore, alternative softWare implementations
including, but not limited to, distributed processing or
component/object distributed processing, parallel process
ing, or virtual machine processing can also be constructed to
implement the methods described herein.
[0103]
It should also be noted that the softWare imple
mentations of the present invention as described herein are
optionally stored on a tangible storage medium, such as: a
magnetic medium such as a disk or tape; a magneto-optical
describing each persistent settings feature and, When the
been entered, again playing the ?rst and second prompts
describing the persistent settings feature, and When the
command to select the persistent settings feature has still not
been entered, playing prompts associated With a subsequent
persistent settings feature.
4. The method of claim 1, in Which the sequentially listing
a series of persistent settings features further comprises
skipping to a next persistent settings feature When receiving
a skip command from the subscriber.
5. The method of claim 4, in Which the sequentially listing
a series of persistent settings features further comprises
repeating a previous persistent settings feature When receiv
ing a repeat command from the subscriber.
6. The method of claim 1, in Which the sequentially listing
a series of persistent settings features further comprises
returning to the message revieW area When the subscriber
or optical medium such as a disk; or a solid state medium
such as a memory card or other package that houses one or
enters a return command.
more read-only (non-volatile) memories, random access
memories, or other re-Writable (volatile) memories. Adigital
the persistent settings features further comprises immedi
?le attachment to email or other self-contained information
archive or set of archives is considered a distribution
ately returning to the message revieW area after the persis
tent settings feature has been changed.
7. The method of claim 1, in Which the changing one of
Dec. 19, 2002
US 2002/0191753 A1
8. The method of claim 1, in Which the sequentially listing
a series of persistent settings features further comprises
mail settings feature, a ?rst prompt being played to identify
the title of each persistent voice mail settings feature and,
initially listing a greetings persistent settings feature.
When a command to select the persistent voice mail settings
feature has not been entered, a second prompt is played
9. The method of claim 8 in Which the sequentially listing
a series of persistent settings features further comprises
listing persistent settings features in a priority order.
10. The method of claim 1, in Which the changing one of
the persistent settings features further comprises sequen
tially listing parameters for changing the persistent settings
feature.
11. An interface to a subscriber-based voice mail compo
nent of a telecommunications system embodied on a com
puter readable storage medium, comprising:
a message revieW area from Where messages are played to
a subscriber;
a settings area accessed from the message revieW area
When the subscriber enters a predetermined command;
a plurality of persistent voice mail settings features that
can all be sequentially listed from the settings area; and
a plurality of functions directly available from the mes
sage revieW area including an option of accessing the
settings area;
Wherein the subscriber is enabled to revieW all persistent
voice mail settings features of the voice mail compo
nent of the telecommunications system Without taking
any action once the subscriber is in the settings area.
12. The interface of claim 11, in Which the message
revieW area plays a subsequent message a predetermined
time period after a current message ?nishes playing, in the
event that the subscriber does not enter a command.
13. The interface of claim 11, further comprising a
plurality of prompts associated With each persistent voice
describing the persistent voice mail settings feature and,
When the command to select the persistent voice mail
settings feature has still not been entered, the ?rst and
second prompts are again played, and When the command to
select the persistent voice mail settings feature has still not
been entered, a ?rst prompt associated With a neXt persistent
voice mail settings feature is played.
14. The interface of claim 11, in Which a neXt persistent
voice mail settings feature is skipped to upon receiving a
skip command from the subscriber.
15. The interface of claim 14, in Which a previous
persistent voice mail settings feature is repeated When
receiving a repeat command from the subscriber.
16. The interface of claim 11, in Which When the sub
scriber enters a return command the subscriber returns to the
message revieW area.
17. The interface of claim 11, in Which the subscriber
immediately returns to the message revieW area after a
persistent voice mail settings feature has been changed.
18. The interface of claim 11, in Which the plurality of
persistent voice mail settings features further comprise a
greetings settings feature, Which is listed ?rst.
19. The interface of claim 18, in Which the plurality of
persistent voice mail settings features further comprise per
sistent voice mail settings features listed in a priority order.
20. The interface of claim 11, further comprising a
plurality of sequentially listed parameters for each persistent
voice mail settings feature, the parameters being for chang
ing the settings feature.
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