Unified Messaging Service (UM) is designed for today’s mobile professionals, enabling them to have a “professional presence” with clients and co-workers, while working from anywhere. UM is ideal for both independents (such as REALTORS® and self-employed) and corporate professionals (such as IBM’s teleworkers – about 42% of the company’s 330,000 employees work on the road, from homes, or at a client location, and benefit from UM.)
UM is an extraordinarily powerful personal number that unifies landline, wireless, and email communications. Each UM number features a universal messaging service that lets users distribute a single phone number to clients and colleagues – for home, business, cell, and fax. Users (hereafter referenced as “you”) simply forward your number to wherever you might be located, be it at home, on cell phone, at the office, out of town, to a hotel phone, you name it. You can re-direct calls as often as you wish, or use an adjustable daily or weekly scheduler that automatically directs calls according to a schedule you establish.
Problems Solved With UM
UM provides solutions to many diverse problems encountered by U. S. workforces, teleworkers and mobile professionals today:
Professionalism: Professionalism requires being readily available and easy to reach. To ensure this accessibility, many professionals distribute multiple numbers. However, when you distribute multiple contact numbers, you imply “Look how easy it is to reach me,” but prospects think, “Look how hard I have to work to find you.” Given a choice, clients will pursue the path of least resistance each time. . .the person providing the least resistance gets the job. What’s more, with cell phones, we tend to answer with a mere “hello” or our name, thereby losing the cool, unruffled detachment that is a major part of professional protocol. A message should announce you and your business prior to your “hello.”
UM Solution: With one number for all communication – such as with a UM number – there is no resistance. What’s more, clients are impressed with your organization and control, and appreciate your initiatives to make it easy to do business with you. They also are impressed with the upfront greeting that allows them to reach your live or merely leave a message if they so choose (research says that 54% of callers would prefer to leave a message if possible.)
Time management: Unexpected calls come in—you react; urgent faxes need to be picked up—you react; cell phones drop calls—you react. You are continually rushing to keep up with time wasters that you cannot control. This reactive pattern of communicating is the major cause of most teleworkers’ time-management problems.
UM Solution: With UM, you learn to be proactive, to take charge, to gain control. Using UM, you actively decide when and where to take calls (or not to take calls); you have only one voicemail to check, rather than three or four; you choose when and where you will receive, print and return faxes; you decide how to unify and organize your communication – voicemail, emails, faxes – because UM gives you so many options. You can even save time by conducting conference calls or delivering group messages (using group options you set up in advance). In other words, you take the initiative and, in doing so, gain the control that will let you master your time.
Cell phone DIS-service: “Real” businesses do not use cell phones as primary business contact and neither should you. Cell phones are the least reliable and most expensive phone you can use. They are notorious for lost and dropped calls, and delayed voice messages. Further, cell phones prompt an informality which, rather than being “personable,” is actually unprofessional.
UM Solution: With a UM number, you can rely on your cell phone as much or as little as you want. By distributing your UM number rather than your cell phone number, you can opt to take calls on cell or landline – in fact, on any landline, anywhere, anytime. No need to worry about cell reception or dead batteries. When you return to a mobile situation, you can simply forward your UM to your cell phone.
Environmental concerns. Gas prices, gas emissions, congestion, global warming. . . all suggested byproducts of daily commuting. And then there are the trips to the office to pick up faxes and download files. Nationally, this is set to change in corporate America, as organizations such as Microsoft have actively embarked on ways to promote working from home and other off-site locales. Last year, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine set the goal of having 20% of the state’s workforce telecommuting by 2010. What’s more, companies are realizing the need to become good corporate citizens. Currently, more than 14% of the U.S. workforce gets its job done at a home office or off-site locale more than two days per week, and that number is expected to grow to 17% or more by 2009. (source BW Online, 03/12/07, “Telecommuting Now and Forever).
UM Solution: UM is the quintessential tool that mobile workers need for doing business on the road or offsite/remote locales so that they can control all calls and messages, both voice and electronic.
Productivity: The consulting firm Work Design Collaborative says that virtual workers are about 16% more productive than office workers; however, a Gartner Group Survey says that number is more like 40%! Either way, the numbers point out that diligent professionals are likely to be more productive away from the office, if they have the right tools.
UM Solution: UM provides tools to put you in complete control:
· Gain total control of all calls & messages, both voice and electronic
· Replace all contact numbers with a single number
· Forward your calls to any phone
· Re-direct your calls as often as you wish, or use an adjustable scheduler that automatically directs calls according to a schedule you establish
· Allow callers to reach you live using Find-Me-Follow-Me
· Choose to take the call or not; all voicemail goes only to UM
· Check just one place for all voicemail
· Receive faxes anywhere; keep them confidential
· Forward faxes by e-mail to anyone
· Fax documents to your UM, then forward them by email to the client when fax machine is not available to the client
· Forward voice messages by email to anyone
· Conference call on-the-fly
· Reduce cell phone usage, sometimes by more than 60%
Crisis & unexpected situations: Hurricane Katrina was a large-scale disaster. E-mail, networks, data centers, data storage, wireless and Blackberry communications capabilities were all wiped out. Computers, phones, pagers, and most hardware devices were lost.
UM Solution: It’s doubtful that your city will ever be devastated by a disaster the size of Katrina, but the lesson does point to the need to rely on software hosted in a distant location. Among other features, UM (which is hosted from Seattle) provides computer access to all your messages – voice, fax and email. Just secure access to the Internet anywhere and, with the click of your mouse, you can have your saved voicemail messages played to you over your computer speakers (or telephone, of course), or view your incoming and stored faxes on your computer screen.
Public -- and costly -- fax machines: Most fax machines are not very private, causing awkward situations for many organizations. For example, some real estate agencies must deal with a dual agency issue. Sure, in most states, dual agency is allowed if consent is given in writing. However, there are still those publicly-seen faxes that come into common fax machines – generally the breakdown of dual agency comfort. What’s more, many teleworkers do not have the budget, space or patience to deal with fax machines. And, they can’t be toted around as easily as other mobile devices such as laptops and cell phones.
UM Solution: Resolve this issue by sending/receiving faxes via your secured and private UM number, and view, store, print and/or forward faxes to any email using your private PC instead.
Lawsuits. As professionals dispensing advice or products, you and/or your business, are continually vulnerable to lawsuits. Even if the lawsuit is ridiculous, (such as, you “exaggerated the features of your service”) the result to your business, reputation and wallet could be disastrous. If there is no proof of something you said or did, then clients can claim that you misled them, didn’t tell them or even lied to them.
UM Solution: Of course, where possible, you should put everything in writing. Beyond that, UM further provides the option of keeping verbal messages too, which you then can download to computer storage. In other words, a paper trail is a good thing, but a digital paper trail is even better, to cover all bases.
Debra Traverso is the author of hundreds of articles and five books, published in eight languages, a speaker, marketing consultant for Fortune 50 companies, regular lecturer at Harvard University, and vice president of OneCall. She can be reached through the One Call website.