By Jim Reyes
I enjoyed the article in the October issue by Joy Rossin, who uses ISDN for her Answering Service. I also decided to use ISDN in my company. I purchased ISDN stand alone phones with data ports, software from AT&T and am using my existing computer system.
All you need is one ISDN phone number for all of your customers to forward to. This is because with ISDN you get two talk paths which means you can use two phones to answer incoming calls. Also, with ISDN, you can have multiple call appearances, e.g., 2, 4, 6, 8, 10,12, 14, 16, so it can handle a lot of customers if needed.
Patching is very simple: you answer a call, press the transfer button, receive dial tone, and dial the phone number you are transferring your caller to. Then, when you hear the other phone number ringing, press the transfer button again. The parties are connected and your call appearances are free to receive more calls. By using the phone company switching, there is no loss of audio on your patches or conference calls. You can also conference up to six parties on one call. Using my existing computer system, along with Mastar Telemessaging Software, I was in full ISDN operation.
I, like many before me, used DID for my Answering Service and in the beginning, found it adequate. It did not take me long to find out the shortcomings of DID. The first thing was that one trunk line cost $100 per month for each line. If you did any patching, you would tie up two of your trunk lines and there by limit the number of calls you could answer. Also, you could not use your DID trunk line to make outgoing calls. If you had customers outside your local area, you would have to get an 800/888 number for each customer.
After only four months in business with my DID system, it was hit by lightning. I had to pull the equipment and ship it back to the manufacturer for repairs and had some rather unhappy customers. That’s when I decided to find another method for my Answering Service.
The best thing I can say about ISDN is that now all my switching is handled by my local telephone company. In the past two years, I have never had any problems with their switch and have never been out of service. The only thing I have to worry about are my telephones and computer system. If I get hit by lightning, I just plug in a spare phone and I am up and running a lot simpler to deal with than most Answering Services equipment.
For my long distance customers, I supply one 800 number that they all use to call into my system. With the ISDN, I still identify each customer with their name. I also get the phone number of the person who is calling. This has eliminated giving my customers wrong phone numbers. If a digital mobile call comes in, I can read their phone number, which helps since some of my people do not remember their own mobile number.
After almost a year of pestering Rod Minarick, the founder of Mastar Telemessaging Software, they can now support ISDN. What we have accomplished is a program which will identify the customers, provide the phone number of the person calling (if provided by the phone company), and display their answer phrase. We are also working on being able to have voice mail for our customers who do not want live operators.
With ISDN you can have multiple work stations if your customer base demands it, or you can have a single user station. Everything is expandable for growth and I would recommend any new start-up to weigh the benefits of ISDN versus going DID.
This information was provided by an ISDN user and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this magazine. Mr. Reyes can be reached at ABC Answering Service, 3222 Blair Dr., Palatka, FL 32177, 904-328-1205.
[From Connection Magazine, November 1997]