Put your best calls forward – call forwarding – Technology Information
Donald Carlson relies on a constant stream of customer phone calls to keep his home-based realty firm running. “But during the busy summer season, I’d leave the office and miss calls. I was losing business.”
If you expect a time-critical call, you can’t afford to be out of touch. The solution: call forwarding. The problem: call forwarding’s dizzying array of options. To make sure you get the type of service that best meets your needs, follow our recommendations.
Few Calls, All Important
If you don’t receive many calls, you can pick up basic call forwarding from your local phone company. The basic setup automatically sends calls to another number, such as your cell phone. It’s available from most local phone companies, typically for between $2 and $6 a month.
The basic setup either forwards all calls to a number you specify or forwards them only when your line is busy or you don’t pick up. Besides being readily available and inexpensive, the service is easy to configure. Each time you leave your desk, dial a brief code, then the number at which you can be reached.
The disadvantage is that basic call forwarding doesn’t discriminate. It forwards all calls from all callers.
Many Calls, Few Important
Want to forward only essential calls? To separate the wheat from the chaff, selective call forwarding sends only specific incoming calls to your new location. All other calls go to your voice-mail system. Most local telephone companies let you key in from 12 to 30 must-forward numbers.
At $2.50 to $6 a month, selective call forwarding is in expensive and as simple to set up as basic call forwarding. But this service relies on caller ID, so even local phone companies can’t ensure success. For instance, say 444-4567 is the number that rings at your caller’s desktop, but his company’s phone system has 444-4000 as a main number. Caller ID often identifies only the main number; it won’t recognize the -4567 extension that you keyed into the system and won’t forward the call.
Screen by Hearing
Need to hear the caller’s voice to decide if you should pick up? Prompted forwarding systems ask the caller to state his or her name, then they call you and play the ID. These services give you the option to accept the call, send it to another number, or zip it back to voice mail.
One such product, the Concero (CentrePoint Technologies, 613-725-2980, www.ctrpoint.com; $495) turned out to be real estate agent Carlson’s solution. Concero’s prompting option enables Carlson to talk only with specific clients. However, if you’ve ever called into such a system, you know how it feels to hold while somebody decides whether to accept your call. That annoyance isn’t a good thing if Mr. or Ms. Big is calling.
Wildfire (800-945-3347 for a demo, www.wildfire.com) is a service that promises to take this a step further by using voice recognition to identify individual clients. Wildfire plans to offer this service through local telephone companies for about $10 per month. As we go to press, Wildfire has yet to seal a Baby Bell deal.
Special Calls for Special People
To receive only the calls that you’re absolutely sure you need, give VIP callers a personal identification number (PIN) and hook up Tina (Datacom International, 888-846-2789, www.dcint.com; $200) to your phone. This product can forward only callers who provide the proper PIN. What’s best, you’ll flatter your clients and coworkers by giving them a PIN to ensure that their calls get through.
If you are extremely mobile, you can’t send all your calls to one location. “The biggest problem for me is giving people one phone number where they can reach me,” says Jim Walker, a field engineer for Cadence Systems. He can be working from Pennsylvania, Texas, or California.
He uses Tina to give his callers a series of options. They can leave a message, page him, or have Tina track him down. The product puts the caller on hold as it tries a series of up to nine phone numbers until it finds him. Concero offers similar capabilities but only lets you forward calls to three numbers at three different times. It doesn’t let you try each number in succession.
Don’t want more equipment? MCI (800-950-5555) offers its MCI One service, an 800 number service that follows you to as many as three phone numbers. The downside to each of these follow-me systems is that callers can wait a long time before finding you.
Make the Right Call
When deciding which call-forwarding approach works best, keep in mind the nature of your callers. “I don’t use call forwarding for new customers,” says Jonathan Ganz, president of Pacific International Japanese Technical Language Services, which translates technical documents between Japanese and English. “They might hang up if they’re on hold for very long.”
Ganz set up Concero with menu options that give new callers one set of options and existing customers another. The device forwards calls from existing customers or takes messages. But Concero pages Ganz when a new customer calls. He’s trying to grow his business and doesn’t want to miss a prospect.
When you can lose money even while you’re away from the office making money, it’s worth making sure that your important calls find you, no matter where you are.
COPYRIGHT 1998 CURTCO Freedom Communications
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group