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The Central Midwest District UUA merged in 2013 with the Districts of Heartland and Prairie Star to form the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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Virtual Telephones I

There’s been a lot of discussion about how to handle telephone contacts for the CMwD office. Our first experiment was simply to add Forwarding to our existing service in Hillside. This worked very well at first, with the phones forwarded to my cell phone. However, then we discovered an issue withi older telephone switches, such as the one in Hillside — forwarding cannot be changed remotely, only at the originating instrument. If for some reason the person to whom the calls are forwarded are unable to take the calls, then they just pile up in voice mail if there’s no one on site to change the forwarding. This situation actually occurred recently.

So we explored other options that we feel must be out there. One that looked very promising to me was a product called Gotvmail.com, which is used by a number of small businesses. It works exactly like a PBX switch, which allows you to have a menuing system. If someone calls in, they get the option of being forwarded to an individual on the menu. The problem here is that it is pretty complex, even though we wouldn’t have to actually program the system ourselves (and I have programmed a PBX menuing system, and it’s a nasty job), and at the number of minutes we use, it would be more expensive than we had hoped. It just didn’t feel right.

We also found that AT&T has something called “Unified Messaging”. As I understand it, this will allow one incoming line to support a number of voice mail boxes. While this wouldn’t be as convenient as a menu, and while staff would have to check their mail boxes regularly, it is tried technology. However, it’s an expensive add-on to already expensive land line telephones, far more so than Gotvmail.

Finally, we realized that we don’t have to do anything more complex than what we already have, and the most elegant solution is also the simplest: just get a CMwD cell phone. It can live on the main contact’s hip or be passed along to someone else if necessary, and it can itself be forwarded; and if the forwarding has to be changed, whoever has the instrument can do it.