Who ya gonna call? Or better yet, who’s gonna call YOU?
Sometimes there are just categories of people that you don’t want to give your home or cell phone number to, but do want to give them SOME phone number without being rude, or allowing them to contact you in the future — whether it is for surveys or registration for various services around town, new people that you meet at a party, a classified ad you’re running, a reunion you’re attending, or some conference where you meet tons of random people you’re not sure you want to stay in touch with, or even for eBay auctions so that you can customer-friendly and answer buyer’s questions.
If you’re a business owner, why not set-up a dedicated “customer feedback” hotline, where you promote customers to call and leave their thoughts, comments, suggestions about your company, service, products, employees, new ideas, etc. You’ll look proactive, get valuable feedback, and potentially some really good glowing comments you can utilize as references in your marketing materials.
One of the best solutions is to get a free local phone number from AOL’s AIM Phoneline service. It gives you a free dedicated phone number in your local area code. The basic, free account level gives you unlimited inbound calls to that number and when you’re not online or available, it has free voicemail too.
How does it work? When someone calls your number, if you have your AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) running, a “CALL ALERT” box will pop up on your screen with Caller ID information (FREE too!). You have a choice to answer to call and take it using your computer’s speakers/mic or send the call to voicemail directly.
When you receive voicemail, you can log into your AIM Phoneline Account dashboard to view the list of calls and listen and/or forward each of the voicemails saved in mp3 format. These of course can be saved on your hard drive for archiving if you wish (my iTunes plays them back just fine, and the caller id info is saved as part of the file name). You can even have text messages or emails sent to alert you whenever a new message arrives.
It’s a great way to have a phone number handy that you can give out without worries. In fact, you can never have AOL Instant Messenger on, and use it completely as a free stand-alone voicemail box. Try it out, it’s free and totally easy to set-up.
If you do need a second line at home or office, and DO need outgoing call ability, then I wouldn’t definitely steer you to a VOIP account with companies like SunRocket — their most affordable plan is right under $10/month with 200 minutes + 100 int’l minutes while their unlimited calling plan is $17/month ($199/year). You’ll get tons of other features like simultaneous ringing of multiple numbers (like the SunRocket line, your cell phone, your office phone, etc) and the 1st phone that picks up the call gets it. There are other neat features too like portability when you travel (anywhere in the world with an internet connection).