“We have a travel company with six outlets. I’ve read that unified messaging — getting e-mails over our cell phones, and phone messages over our laptops and so on — is a great way to keep my senior people connected. But I find the technology confusing and intimidating and I’m not sure what I need. Heck, I’m not even sure what the difference is between unified messaging and Voice over Internet Protocol. Is there a difference? Help!”
Arshad Merali, Toronto
The question is not really “Do I need Unified Messaging?” What you should be asking is “When can I get it and from whom?” Unified Messaging is in all respects, a must-have … if not today, then definitely tomorrow. It allows users to more efficiently manage their time. This allows them to be more productive and responsive to clients and internal issues.
While there is a cost savings that is demonstrable just through the consolidation of services, the intangible value of increased user satisfaction, productivity, efficiency, and customer service are often overlooked. In today’s competitive environment, businesses have a paradoxical challenge … focus on reducing their costs and increasing their customer satisfaction levels. Unified Messaging is one tool in our arsenal that can help us achieve our objective.
About Unified Messaging, I have found it very convenient to use the jConnect Premiere service from j2.com for my home-office business phone line. For US$13.75/month on an annual plan (http://jsource.j2.com/services/pricing.asp) it gives me a local phone number in Vancouver that has an outgoing answering greeting which converts either faxes or voicemail received into an e-mail attachment that I can view / play from the “j2 Messenger” application on my laptop. This way I just have to use “Call Answer Busy / No Answer Transfer” from my local phone company on my business line so that when I’m on the phone or away it forwards the call to my local j2 number.
I have my j2 account set up to forward a copy of the e-mails to my cellular phone’s SMS e-mail address; since that only handles 128 characters, I just get instantly notified of the fact that I have a voicemail or fax waiting in my regular POP e-mail box. The text messages look like this:
<mailto:email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org (j2 Voice Message at ) You have received a voicemail at 14/10/2003 16:10:22 PDT. * The reference number for this c<8C825E15.GSM file attached>
The only disadvantage of this system is that I’m still dependent on keeping my land line since that’s what I have to publish as my phone number if I want the phone to ring, but at least I get unified voice/fax messaging for barely CAD$11/month more than non-emailed voicemail only would be from the phone company. As far as I can tell, Telus abandoned its consumer-priced unified messaging service, and I was previously a happy eFax.com user who was willing to pay a small monthly fee for the ability to receive voicemail and faxes at a local Canadian phone number!
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