Where in the world is ... Featured

9:52am EDT July 22, 2002

One of the most difficult aspects of running a small business is handling the myriad duties that befall the person in charge. This often means a lot of time spent on the road visiting clients, prospecting for business or taking care of other duties that keep you out of the office.

But you need to be in touch at all times, afraid to miss the call from the big customer that could really boost profits, so you resort to becoming a walking small appliance warehouse stocked with cell phones, pagers and PDAs. As a result, your business card looks like a miniature version of the phone book, listing numbers for each of the devices, along with your office numbers at home and at work.

Customers want service, and they want it now. They don’t want to try your office, then your cell phone, then your pager. It’s just too much work, and it might be easier for them to simply do business elsewhere.

That’s why you might want to consider a toll-free call forwarding service, such as the Personal Assistant service offered by Business N@tion (www.businessnation.com). With the Live Call-Connect feature, clients call one toll-free number and reach you wherever you are. Instead of sending them to voice mail, you can leave up to three phone numbers where the system can reach you. You still get the call you need, and your clients are offered a simple means of reaching you.

The services are typically bundled with other useful communications tools, and usually only require a touch-tone phone. Here are some examples:

  • Speed dialing. Program 20 or more numbers to save time and increase productivity.

  • Voice messaging. Callers have the option of sending urgent and confidential messages. The system will immediately page you to let you know you have a message.

  • Fax service. Send and receive faxes while on the road without using a fax machine or modem. Save 50 or more documents in your fax center and fax them instantly from any phone or retrieve them from any fax machine.

  • Call conferencing. Conference with six or more people from any phone in North America. Conference with inbound callers. Exit, speak privately to a party in the conference and re-enter the conference.

  • Call screening.

  • Spoken caller ID

Costs typically run about $10 per month, depending on plan package, with per minute charges of about 12 cents. Independent dealers, as well as the major carriers, offer these services.

Todd Shryock(tshryock@sbnnet.com) is SBN’s> special reports editor.