Major Update to U.Va.'s Voice Mail System/'PhoneMail Lady' — and Most Features — Remain the Same

December 18, 2007
Dec. 18, 2007 — On Dec. 19, the University-wide voice mail system will get a significant, but mostly behind-the-scenes upgrade.

The new system, called Xpressions, should feel very familiar — it's made by the same company as the current PhoneMail system, and was designed specifically to make the usage as similar as possible to the current system, from mostly identical key commands (push '3' to listen to your messages) to many of the same familiar voice prompts.

In fact, when Siemens, the maker of both systems, created the Xpressions system in 1999, the company tracked down and re-hired the same "PhoneMail Lady" to record the voice prompts for the new system, said Jim Jokl, director of ITC's Communications and Systems Division.

The new system is essentially a behind-the-scenes update of system infrastructure, moving from 1980s-vintage proprietary computer hardware that is becoming difficult to maintain or expand to a system based on up-to-date technology.

The new system offers a few minor enhancements. There will be just one easy-to-remember access number (924-7000 from off Grounds or 4-7000 from within the University) that everyone will use to check voice mail. (After calling that number, you'll be prompted to enter your extension number and password.) Messages can be saved as audio files on a computer. A new Web interface allows online access to voice mail, including listening to messages, changing answering options, etc.

Aside from such minor changes and a few slightly different commands, the new and old systems will be practically identical to the user. After listening to the new system's voice prompts for a day or two, most users should quickly resume old habits of immediately pressing memorized key sequences, said Rick Oliver, manager of ITC's Communication Services Group.

Users will need to record new greetings and set up a new numeric password (PIN), either before or after the Dec. 19 transition. For those who wish to set up their PINs ahead of the switchover, ITC has set up an online registration process at that will be open until 4 p.m. today (Dec. 18).

Those who do not register before 4 p.m. today will need to use a generic PIN (being sent today via e-mail and/or voice mail to all PhoneMail users) to access the system for the first time, then reset their PIN and record a new greeting. ITC asks that users try to avoid recording greetings on the first morning (Wednesday, Dec. 19), to avert a potential system overload. For assistance during the conversion to Xpressions, please call ITC's Voicemail Help Desk at 924-4183, where Siemens will be providing extra staff to assist with questions.

Unfortunately, there is no way to move old messages or greetings between PhoneMail and Xpressions. To preserve any old messages, ITC recommends using a speakerphone and a tape or digital recorder. Users can access their old PhoneMail messages for several weeks after the switchover. Users will by notified by ITC of the exact date (yet to be determined) when the PhoneMail system will be turned off and all messages saved in the PhoneMail system will be gone.

For details on the switchover, visit

Students will not be affected. They will continue to use the PhoneMail system.