Friday, January 7, 2011

Automated Phone Systems

"Ring, ring, why don't you give me a call" - ABBA
Automated Calling Systems can be a pain when it's a sales call at dinner or a "vote for me" pitch from a politician. But they can also be very useful when your school or sports team calls to tell you about a cancellation or delay.

Last year when my wife and I were asked to serve as Emergency Preparedness Directors over eight church units one of the first things I did was replace the emergency phone system we used. Almost no one ever used the old system to call members for cancellations during weather emergencies - it was just too complicated and not well suited for weekend meetings.

I chose a company called Call-Em-All. They were not the cheapest but fit our needs quite well.

1. You want to pick a company whose calling center is far away and on a different electrical grid. That way if your region loses power, you can still make emergency calls.

2. Also make sure the calling center has emergency back-up power generators so they work when they lose power.

3. Our old phone system was business centric and kept business hours. For emergency alerts you want 24/7 access.

4. If you make frequent use of the phone list, consider a monthly fee plan with "unlimited" calls. In our case calls are rare so I picked pre-paid credits that do not expire. The cost is 7 to 10 cents per 30 seconds per call. 

5. With our old system you had to use the Internet to upload a phone list and create the phone message for each call. That just won't do when the power is out. Now we have the ability to store phone lists permanently online. Press 1 for everyone, Press 2 for Leaders, Press 3 for Unit #1, etc. I can select a calling list, record a message, and send it - all from a cell phone. We made wallet sized cards that we gave to all church leaders on how to send messages via phone. It was used just the other day during a blizzard on a Sunday.

6. You also want a company that keeps good records of calls sent. Who was called, who was missed? The company I use keeps a copy of the voice message online. This was very helpful when I was asked to supply the text for a phone call sent to all members during a Hurricane Watch. I looked up the call report and just kept replaying the 30 second message until I had dictated the it correctly.

Bottom Line

If you manage a group or team, consider subscribing to a phone system. It can be a real time saver when you need to get a message out to everyone and the cost is quite reasonable.

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