Most companies can have your voice-mail service up and running within 24 hours from the time you order it. This type of service is great for someone starting a sideline business while still employed elsewhere. While you're busy at your job, your voice mail can handle your sideline business calls. Because most business is done locally, however, many business owners actually prefer using a local number in the area where they do business, says Gordon.
A local number helps a company appear to be a part of the local community, even if it's actually located in another state. With offices in 65 cities across the country, American Voice Mail can usually provide you with a local number.
Your customers have the convenience of using a toll-free number to contact you, and you use a toll-free number to retrieve your messages. Because customers can call you without charge, you may get leads you wouldn't get otherwise, says James Santacroce, one of Alpha's principals.
And your cost won't vary with the number or length of calls you receive. For those who travel extensively, a flat-rate, toll-free service is simply the most convenient system. So by the time you add all the extra features you want, service can get pricey. Phone company rates are generally lower. As a more economical option, consider using the voice-mail services offered through your local phone company.
All these costs are simply added to your phone bill. Phone companies typically charge businesses a higher rate than residential customers.
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The legislation mandates that telephone service be made affordable to residential customers by charging them lower rates than businesses. In effect, businesses subsidize residential phone-service rates. If your business is homebased, however, you may qualify for the lower residential rates.
Most phone companies charge business rates only when the business is based outside the home and has extensive communications needs. One drawback of using phone-company services is the fact that they can't always offer what you need. For instance, Nynex offers pager notification only to customers living in New York state. Regardless of whether you use your phone company or another service, you won't have to purchase or maintain equipment.
That means you don't have to worry about expensive repairs, and your voice-mail service won't produce additional office clutter, something that can be crucial in tight quarters. Representatives of most such services are also available around the clock to answer questions.
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And if the service you ordered isn't meeting your needs, in most cases, you're not obligated to continue it. Changing technology is another consideration. You will get the advantage of these advances because we're making the upgrades. Either way, you're obligating yourself to pay monthly fees, but that may be the best way to go if you have limited capital. For those who prefer upfront costs to running costs, Jainschigg estimates there are between 50 and systems for sale, most of which work with your personal computer.
Most voice-mail systems offer a variety of useful options that help make your company seem bigger and more professional. If you spend a lot of time away from your office, you'll want a system with pager notification. This feature beeps your pager or forwards your calls to another phone of your choice whenever a message comes in. Another useful feature is the capability for multiple mailboxes. Systems with this feature can be programmed to ask callers to press a certain number, depending on the reason for their call.
For instance, callers can be instructed to press "1" for sales, "2" for billing or "3" for technical support.
Not only does this make your company seem larger, but it also helps you sort your messages by priority and type. If your business emphasizes phone sales, be sure to look for a system with ample recording time. When choosing a voice-mail system, advises Jainschigg, it's important to get one that's not only compatible with your phone system, but one that can be integrated with it as well. If your systems aren't integrated, voice mail could unwittingly send a call to a busy extension, allowing the call to be "dropped on the floor"--the caller will get disconnected rather than reaching your voice mail.
Telephony Experts handles such problems by offering to preprogram its product, the Small Business Assistant, with settings designed to integrate its system with your existing phone system, says Shelton Glenn, a salesperson at Telephony Experts. If you need further assistance, call the hotel directly or contact customer service. Alternatively, you can cancel your reservation online. American Dollars.
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