Well-designed technology should disappear.
The computer mouse was a break through in how we interact with computers. Before the mouse, to move the cursor diagonally across the screen required alternating up and side arrows. The mouse allowed us to quite literally just drag the cursor exactly where we wanted to go.
When I bought my first home in the 90s, the realtor gave me a business card that had five numbers on the back of it. Her intent was obvious – she wanted to make herself available to her clients and offered five different ways to reach her. The problem was it put the responsibility on me. Realistically, I’m more likely to call another realtor than make five attempts to reach one.
To make the effort of reaching her more transparent – more seamless, the next generation solution involved call forwarding and a feature known as simultaneous ring. It was a big improvement – one number rings all five of her devices. This seemed like the perfect solution, but simultaneously during this period there was another feature gaining popularity that counteracted simultaneous ring.
Simultaneous Ring only works right when the lead number is dialed, thus the trick is to only give out one public number. The new feature of Caller-ID meant we no longer “gave-out” our number, but rather freely provided it. Effectively, we lost control of our public number. Caller-ID was a rock and a hard spot situation. Turned-off, the remote party may not answer. Turned-on, the remote party may collect a new and private number that bypasses Simultaneous Ring. It has become common practice to redial or call-back using information in the call log.
The next generation of this technology needs to embrace SMS. Texting remains popular and so far, few vendors have a solution that can substitute the Caller-ID information with the published single number reach number. Google Voice actually does this. It’s also possible to set this up with Voxeo or Twilio. Mitel can also offer this with their mobile network service.
Comprehensive single number solutions involve both simultaneous ring for incoming calls, and a separate technology for outgoing calls to ensure the same single number is broadcast as the outbound caller-ID, regardless of where, how, and which device the call was placed from. There are a few different approaches to enabling this feature. Typically, single number outbound systems ensure the call manager makes the outbound call. So if the call is being initiated from a cell phone or home phone, a connection between that device must first be established to the enterprise call manager – and then to the called party. It’s a bit complicated, but that’s ok as long as its transparent. When features are not transparent, they don’t get consistently used.
The key to transparent technology is no extra steps, no waiting, no distractions, no training – an enjoyable experience for all parties. You don’t want your users (or customers) thinking about the tool or the technology. Rather they should be thinking about the business at hand. Single number reach is a valuable transparent technology and when done correctly works for both in and out bound calling solutions.