For mysterious reasons there are some technologies which, although they are popular everywhere else, have simply failed to be popular here in Zimbabwe. On the list are technologies like BlackBerry Messenger, MMS, and voicemail. Whilst we can blame the regulators for the BlackBerry Messenger woes, I think our operators are to blame for the failure of the last two. Econet however has recently stepped up efforts to try and popularize the use of voice mail through a concerted advertising effort.
For a long time when the market yearned for MMS, network operators did not make it available and when they finally availed it to the public people had already found alternatives in Instant Messaging Apps such as Mxit, 2Go, Nimbuzz and Whatsapp that seamlessly integrated multimedia and messaging apps without going through hurdles.
The last time I tried voicemail was almost 5 years ago during the Zim dollar era. Unlike the diminished demand for MMS nowadays, the need and usefulness of voicemail is as great now as it was then. Back then network coverage was a bit patchy and when on the road one often found themselves out of cell coverage even when travelling on the most popular routes such as the Mutare-Harare highway. You had no way of telling if you had missed an important call and your debtors often used the excuse that “your phone was unavailable” to skip payments.
If I still remember correctly, Econet had what can only be called an extortionist pricing model for voicemail. The person leaving the message was charged a normal call rate and the person retrieving the message was also charged at normal call rates to retrieve the message. Small wonder therefore that the service proved quite unpopular with my low income friends so I was forced to stop using it – as did a lot of people. A lot of people I know never even bothered.
The current pricing model being offered by Econet now only charges the person leaving the message at normal call rates and message retrieval is for free. Whilst this is definitely an improvement from the earlier model I think more incentives are needed to make the service more appealing to the market. With services like Buddie Zone and Voice Bundles service operators have clearly demonstrated that it is possible for them to make profit even if they offer such bargains. If voicemail is to be the talk of this holiday season and the coming year network operators need to offer more, otherwise it will die a silent death just like the last time.
Advantages of voice mail
- People can leave you messages when you are busy, outside network coverage, in a meeting, your battery is dead or if for whatever reason unable to answer your phone so you can listen to the messages later and return calls if necessary. It is definitely much more useful and informative than those nagging Call Me Backs.
- You can still retrieve your messages even if you do not have your phone.
Steps to activate and use Voice Mail on Econet phones.
- Go to Settings-Call settings-Divert Calls (The exact steps vary from model to model.) Choose your preferred divert condition e.g. Divert when not available and set the divert number to +26377122. Please note your voice mail is only activated if someone leaves you a message an asinine condition in my opinion.
- To retrieve messages from an Econet line dial 122 and follow the voice prompts. The default password is 321#
- To customize your voice mail with such things as a personal greeting or to change your password dial 122, enter your password and select option 5 and follow the voice prompts.
- To retrieve mail using another phone dial 0772122# and follow the voice prompts.
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