What is a departmental voicemail and how does it work?


How It Works
After Greeting Action


While every user configured on the voicemail system should have a voicemail, departments are also usually set up with an account on the Cisco Unity voicemail system.  This voicemail account is configured to work with the department's main numbers such as the number advertised on the department's webpage.  This can be done for several reasons:
  • The department may want callers to be able to leave a message
  • The department may want to be able to have a message played and the end of an unanswered call to the department (i.e. "Sorry we were unable to take your call...")
  • The department may want to be able to play different messages at the end of an unanswered calls depending on the date and time to cover situations such as calls coming in
These are all features offered by the Unity and can be mixed and matched to create a custom tailored solution to meet the department's needs.  While Unity is a voicemail system, allowing a caller to leave a voicemail message is optional.  The system can therefore be used as a way to get information from the caller even though their call wasn't able to be answered, as a way to communicate to the caller why the department was unable to answer their call and how to proceed next, or as both.

How It Works

A basic call flow for a department voicemail is as follows:
  1. Caller dials the department's main telephone number
  2. The call goes unanswered.  This can happen for various reasons such as all of the department's employees were on calls or were not available due to a holiday.
  3. The calls is forwarded to the department's Unity voicemail account and the appropriate greeting is played (see "Greetings" section below)
  4. At this point, what happens next depends on how the account is configured and is up to the department (see "After Greeting Actions" section)... the caller might be allowed to record a voicemail, the greeting might be set to repeat indefinitely, or Unity hangs up and disconnects the call
  5. If the caller was allowed to record a voicemail message, an email is sent to the department's email with an audio attachment containing the caller's message


An important feature of the Unity voicemail system is greetings.  Greetings are what a caller hears when they are connected to a voicemail account.  A greeting may use the system's default recording ("Sorry [first and last name] is not available.  Record your message the tone..") or a custom greeting that someone has recorded.  A single greeting can be used and played for all times of day or additional greetings can be used and schedule for work hours, off hours, and holidays.  The greetings are as follows:
  • Standard Greeting - This greeting gets played during work hours but will also play during off hours or holidays if no Off Hours or Holiday greetings have been enabled.
  • Off Hours Greeting - If enabled, this greeting gets played outside of the work hours that have been defined by the schedule associated with the department's Unity account.  It will also play during holidays if no Holiday greeting has been enabled.
  • Holiday Greeting - If enabled, this greeting gets played if the date and time match what has been defined as a holiday in the Unity system.  Once the new year's holiday schedule is released, the Unity holiday schedule will be updated.
As mentioned, greetings are tied to schedules, which define both work hours and holidays, and trigger automatically so callers get the correct greeting without manual action by department employees.  While the holiday schedule will be updated according to the official released ATU holiday schedule, department work hours must be communicated to the Office of Information Systems when initially setting up the department's account as well as when any changes are made.

After Greeting Actions

While greetings are an extremely important part of the department's Unity account, just as important is the action to take after the greeting is played.  Each greeting has its own options concerning what happens on the call after the greeting is finished.  There are three basic after greeting actions currently offered:
  • Take Message - This action will allow the caller to leave a voicemail message to be accessed later by phone or email by a department employee.  A related option can be enabled to play a default "Record your message after the Tone" prompt or, if the custom recording being used already contains this, the option can be disabled.
  • Restart Greeting - This action will play the greeting again without giving the caller the option to leave a voicemail message.  The greeting will replay indefinitely until the caller hangs up.  If utilizing this option, we recommend leaving a small amount of silence at the end of a custom greeting so that there is a short period of silence before the greeting is replayed.
  • Hang Up - This action will hang up the call once the greeting is finished playing without giving the caller the option to leave a voicemail.


The Cisco Unity system is highly configurable and allows the system to be configured to suit a department's needs when used for department voicemail.  Updates can be made to an account at any time to keep up with a department's current needs, usually with minimal downtime.