Hello, Austin Powers Here....

Whose dulcet tones have you got blurting out your "Leave me a message" voicemail greeting? Would you like Austin Powers doing it for you? Quite a few Brits have taken to that idea, though not all have chosen Powers to do the honors -- quite a few have chosen his adversary, Dr Evil!

Nearly a quarter of a million O2 Ltd. (NYSE: OOM) subscribers in the U.K. now have their phones answered by a celebrity, following the introduction of a voicemail service that has, according to the service provider and messaging system supplier InterVoice-Brite, provided O2 with a return on investment in just four months (see O2 Adds Celebrity Voices).

Although the size of the investment so swiftly returned is a "commercially sensitive" secret -- a few hundred thousand dollars or so is hinted at -- hitting pure profit so quickly from a simple premium service is not to be sniffed at. These guys need all the money they can get from current systems, we reckon (see Europe's ARPU Dilemma ).

Services such as the celebrity greetings option are encouraging more people to activate and use their own and others' voicemail -- and there's plenty of room for growth. An InterVoice-Brite survey of U.K. users using any mobile service found that 85 percent of people don't leave messages on mobile voicemail services because there is no personalized greeting or even no greeting at all.

"Operators need to push themselves to conduct a formal review of their systems, listing all the cost-cutting and ARPU generating ideas they can think of and then evaluate them alongside estimated implemented time and costs," says Simon Edwards, marketing director for Europe at InterVoice-Brite.

Yeah, yeah, never mind that, Simon. Whose voice do you use? Do you use Clint Eastwood's? Well, do ya, punk?

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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