Bell Canada has a new service designed to help roving enterprise employees keep on top of phone calls and faxes, but one user seems worried that the offering isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Bell unveiled Single Number Reach (SNR) in October. The telco says the service provides an easy way for people to keep in touch with bosses, colleagues and customers.
"It's our first step towards unified communications, an integrated messaging platform," said Howard Morton, a Toronto-based executive-director at Bell.
SNR gives users a phone number that follows them wherever they go. Users can program the co-ordinates to forward calls to a wireline phone, a mobile phone or a voice mail system. They can program the service so calls go to the mobile at 1 p.m. and to voice mail at 2 p.m., for instance.
If a call comes in while the user's already on the phone and can't get away, she can respond via her PC - push a button to e-mail the caller and say, "We'll talk later," or push another button and send the call to voice mail or an alternative extension. As well, SNR numbers can receive fax messages and deliver them to designated fax machines or printers.
Morton said SNR speaks to the mobile workforce.
"Think about sales personnel - on the road, constantly needing to sychronize with your pager or your cell phone; field personnel doing installations; teleworkers who might be working remotely….It's designed for a broad set of individuals who need real-time communications."
SNR also speaks to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Morton said. He described the Call Director function, a premium feature that collects nine lines and "gives you a virtual receptionist. It directs calls to different departments within the organization."
But John Richardson isn't particularly impressed. He's not so much concerned about SNR's introduction as he is worried that Bell will shut down a similar service, PrimeLine Executive, and port customers over to the new offering.
Richardson said he's tried SNR, and it's no replacement for PrimeLine.
"SNR is at best a shell of PrimeLine. It's got probably half the functionality."
Richardson said he uses PrimeLine to power various entrepreneurial undertakings. As a landlord, for example, he programs the system to provide information about properties. Callers would dial up and hear a message offering options: press "1" for a message about a particular property; press "#" to leave a voice mail, or stay on the line to reach Richardson himself.
He said PrimeLine's charm lies in its 99 "memory locations." Users could program the system like a rich call-attendant that would send callers to myriad messages concerning all sorts of things - information about the company, its offerings, side-projects, et cetera. "It's a tremendously flexible product."