Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Phone System for On-the-Go & On-the-Road Main Streeters

Jonathan_W via flickr Creative Commons
Don't be chained to your desk when you're expecting a call! (c) Jonathan_W via flickr
I am a huge fan of technology. Time to time I am going to talk about helpful tools and software that can help you do your job. Today, we are going to talk about a phone system made for Main Streeters.

If you are like me, you don’t love the idea of giving your private cell phone number out to everyone. But Main Street managers, and others who spend a significant amount of time away from their desks, either have to use their private cell or carry around a work cell phone, too.

But, there is a cool solution to this problem. There is a company called Simple Signal that gives you one office phone number that you can use at your desk phone and your cell. Why is it cool? You can make and take work calls from your private cell phone and your phone number shows up as your office phone.

This protects your private phone number, but it also means you don’t miss important phone calls when you have to be away from your desk and you don’t need to carry two phones or check multiple mail boxes, since everything is integrated into one inbox (time saving!). Another neat feature – voice mails can be converted into text so you can read incoming messages while you are in a boring meeting, and you keep your current phone number.

Their technology actually integrates your landline, cellular phones, your tablet (like an iPad), and your computer. So a conversation started at your desk phone can be continued on your cell or tablet if you need to run out. It’s an internet-based phone system so all you need is an internet connection. If you prefer texting – you can do that, too, from both your phone and your computer using your desk phone number! 

There are video features, too. You can make video calls to put a face with a voice through your tablet, smart phone, or computer’s web cam. The video collaboration features seem pretty cool for Main Street programs who want to have remote board or committee meetings that are a more personal than voice-only conference calls. If you want to do a conference call, you can set them up for up to 14 people with no notice or set-up required.

While we are talking about collaboration, have you ever been on a call when you are referring to a file, a website, an image… or really anything that lives on your computer that you wish you could just show to the person you are talking to in real time? Before, I have used webinar software to do this – especially when I ran committee meetings where I took notes real time and recorded group decisions on a shared document. Simple Signal lets you share a document, your desktop, a webpage all in real time during your conversation. This can make your phone calls and phone meetings more productive and effective. There is no, “let me email that file to you and we can talk about it after you get a chance to look at it.” Things can happen much quicker and your conversations can be more dynamic. Plus, you can record your calls (as long as you have permission of all parties) so you don’t forget any great ideas that came up in a brainstorming session.

If you get phones for your staff members or active board members and committee chairs, you can call them by dialing their extension. They can give out their work number, and it can roll over to their computer, tablet, or cell phone, too. This can add to the professionalism of your office.

I think video calls can be a great way to keep people engaged in a conversation. Main Street coordinating programs, too, can really get a lot of use from these features. Long distance calls are free, so the entire Main Street world can keep in touch. And you get unlimited minutes, so talk till the cows come home.

I am pretty excited about this tool and I feel like it fits with Main Streeters’ needs so seamlessly. And, the only reason why I know about it is because my friend works for Simple Signal. And any friend of mine is a friend of Main Street and City Thrive readers, so he is offering a discount for you all. You can save 20% on the service – so for example, if you do a three-year contract, you pay $35 per phone each month for the premium level, and $25 per phone each month for standard. Premium just has some extra features. If you want each phone to have a different number, you pay $1 more.

Shoot him an email and tell him that you read Andrea’s blog and are interested in learning more. Your name won’t be added to a marketing list and he won’t badger you. You’ll just get some info to learn more about it and a chance to ask questions. This isn’t a limited-time offer, either. If you want to think about it, squirrel this cool technology and the discount away in the back of your mind.

Below is a video with some technical stuff that I couldn't really explain to you if I tried. 

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