“One Number” Technology: An Alternative DID

By Steve Michaels

A question was recently posed on one of the industry list serves about the alarming legislation introduced in Congress that would add a charge of about $2 per DID (Direct Inward Dialing) number to current phone bills. This charge is designed to replace the current “Federal Universal Service Fund” (FUSF) used by our government to subsidize the cost of telephone service in rural communities.

This fee is prohibitive for call centers with hundreds or thousands of DID numbers; however, using “one number” technology is a solution. The “one number” concept means that a call center would have their clients call-forward to one number versus assigning them each their individual DID number. For an example, if you have 500 clients, you need 500 DID numbers. Now you would only need one number versus 500 for them to call-forward to.

For this to work, you need PRI-ISDN and vendor software that supports forwarding to “one number.” All clients would forward to a single phone number (instead of their own DID number). The ISDN would transmit the data about the call on its D-channel, including your client’s number and the caller ID of the person calling your client. PRI-ISDN is like a twenty-four lane super highway where all the voice traffic is on twenty-three of the channels and data about the call are sent digitally on the twenty-fourth channel. Additionally, ISDN supports both incoming and outgoing calls.

“When setting up your PRIs, you can set them to do whatever you want,” said Dick Huffer of ADS Communications Systems, Inc. in Ocala, Florida. As an example, all of his incoming calls start from the first channel (and work up) and all outgoing calls start from the last channel (and work down). This way he cuts down on conflicting traffic. Multiple PRIs can be set in any rotation or configuration.

Huffer is a pioneer with this type of technology and stated that with “one number” technology he is doing three times the business with one-third the phone charges. Huffer added, “Our phone bills were averaging about $22,000 a month. They have now been reduced by two-thirds, which adds up to about $175,000 in annual savings!  We were able to use those savings for business expansion and help with our bottom line, which ultimately results in more profits. But not all systems will support the program.” He uses a “PInnacle system with the Eon switch, which really works great!”

“There are a number of [teleservice companies] who are terrified of this new legislation, which will add an additional $2 per DID number, and I don’t blame them,” said Huffer. “We switched long before the $2 DID issue came about. We cut our line charges for DID trucks, local office, fax, and LD lines. The system rings my office phones; they handle our faxes and every number we wanted to keep. We now only have 2 POTS (plain old telephone service) lines coming into the building, which are for emergencies when everything else fails or to be used for dialing into the equipment by the vendor when they want to work on the system.”

In switching over from DID to this approach, Dick says, “It takes serious effort and programming to switch over the existing accounts. Getting the numbers they are calling from can be difficult, as most of the time it is all of the rotary lines in their hunt group, their back lines, cell phones, second and third office lines, the cabin out in the woods, or whatever. If it is going to hit your system and you want to handle it as their account, then you must have the number they are calling from located in the database of your equipment or it will be unidentified. New accounts are no problem…but the existing accounts are going to take a good customer service call to get switched over.”

Bill Hunter, chairman and CEO of American Message Centers in Niles, Ohio, offered a more technical description of how the “one number” approach works. Bill stated that the proposed $2 DID tax caught his attention last year, so he started looking for a solution to the problem. When asked what some of the terms mean for the novice, Bill stated “Most modern non-VoIP PBXs use PRI (Primary Rate Interface) ISDN lines to communicate with a Telco Class 5 central office switch, replacing older analog two-way and DID trunks. PRI is capable of delivering caller ID in both directions so that the telephone number of an extension, rather than a company’s main number, can be sent.”

Hunter added that stand-alone voicemail accounts with their own numbers can be used on the “one number” system and are not a problem. As you eliminate your DID numbers, you simply transfer these numbers to your customer and have them remote call-forwarded to your one number. Caller ID will identify this account and route it to your voicemail system.

Bill did state that the “one number” concept is not for every call center. Some operations will have to pay the fee when and if it arrives, while others may want to look at hosting on someone else’s system that provides this technology. But the “one number” technology will allow for faster growth and better facilities management. Above all, it will circumvent the $2 per DID tax.

Money is always a motivating factor which forces people to make a change. Look beyond the inconvience and pain of having to change from DIDs to “one number.” It will save money and as a bonus is great for disaster preparedness, as it is much easier to transfer one number versus banks of DIDs. So look at this challenge as an opportunity; it may actually be a blessing in disguise.

Steve Michaels is a business and hosted systems broker and can be contacted at 800-369-6126 or tas@tasmarketing.com for questions.

“One Number” Vendors

Manufactures and their products that support the “one number” technology discussed in this article are:

  • Alston Tascom’s Evolution, 866-282-7266
  • Amtelco’s Infinity, 800-356-9148
  • Professional Teledata’s PInnacle,
  • Startel’s 5700 and CMC, 800-782-7835
  • Szeto’s Call Linx, 877-697-9368, info@szeto.ca
  • Telescan’s Spectrum, 800-770-7662

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2007]