Take Control of Incoming Calls

Practitioners find many benefits in a service that allows them to publicize just one phone number.

May 1, 2008

Is your business card jam-packed with multiple phone numbers? How simple is it to retrieve messages from your different lines? Do you ever worry about whether it’s safe for the public to know your home or mobile phone numbers?

A small but growing pool of real estate professionals are embracing a unified messaging system to alleviate all of the above concerns. Is it something you should consider, too? I’ll share the details so you can decide.

Unified messaging gives you control over how, where, and when you want to be reached. Using such a system, you promote just one phone number for all callers to use, whether phoning your office, sending a fax, or trying to reach your cell phone. By dialing into your service account or accessing it over the Web, you can customize how all of your incoming calls are treated, including which ones should ring through to your phone, and which ones are sent to voicemail or even your e-mail.

Real-Life Use

Tracy Boehme, directing broker for the Keller Williams Realty office in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and the sales associates at her office use a service called Mobile Manager. The service is offered by OneCall, a company focused on communication services for the real estate industry.

“The primary advantage of unified messaging is the way every call can be screened and routed,” says OneCall president Garrie O’Neill. “It’s a technology that allows people to use their cell phone to a lesser degree and manage all incoming calls any way they want.”

Kelly Lumpkin, CEO of Alternate Access, another provider serving the real estate industry, says much of the appeal has to do with the ability to gain control over such a sophisticated menu of calling options.

"Unified messaging allows independent agents to remain connected to their main office, wherever they go, using only one phone number," Lumpkin says. "Their clients dial that number and that call can be directed to voicemail or their cell phone, home phone, or any number where they expect to be."

For some users of this type of service, it’s the programmable “find me-follow me” feature that first attracts them to unified messaging. For others, the attraction is the electronic faxing capabilities included as one in a bundle of services.

“The ability to receive a fax and view it online, wherever they can access the Web, sells them on the service,” says O’Neill “Then, they discover all of the other features that are included.”

Boehme says she uses all of the features. When she doesn’t want to be reached, she programs voicemail with a menu of choices, recording distinct messages for a series of numbered codes. When someone dials in or leaves a message, the system texts her cell phone with information on who tried to reach her.

“If it’s an urgent call, my clients can just dial ‘0’ and they can always get through to me,” she adds. “I can view a fax online and send it by e-mail. Voicemail messages are recorded as audio files in the WAV format, so I can listen to them on my phone or over the Internet, save them if I need to, or forward them to others.”

What Are My Options?

Boehme pays about $20 a month for her Mobile Manager account, and for her, it’s money well spent. “It gives me a lot of freedom to move around, and I never have to worry that I’ll miss anyone who’s trying to reach me,” she says.

Since Boehme first started using unified messaging a decade ago, the systems have evolved and more providers have added new services or entered the market. Most solutions are software based so you can easily add it to an existing phone system without the need for additional equipment.

In fact, a unified messaging option may already be available from your present phone services provider. So if you see benefits in upgrading to unified messaging, start your search there.

For individual real estate professionals, many providers offer an affordable service. Vendors include:

In addition, there are communications packages with unified messaging that are offered for large offices or multi-site companies. You can find these packages from a range of vendors, including:

Pricing depends on the scope of the system and number of users.

With so many choices, there’s no reason you should miss any call, whenever, wherever someone’s trying to reach you.