We have moved from the Information Age, into the Per-sonal Communication Age. Notice there are no quotes around that statement. The fact that there is a change that is substantial enough to warrant a change in the name of the age in which we are living, is my own observation. I have already discussed this in previous issues of CCMag, and will be making a presentation on this subject at our upcoming Technology and Ministry Conference in Atlanta. However, it should be clear that in spite of all the technological advances available today, people desire to hear a familiar voice relating information. They trust and value personal communications directed at them, more then they do reading or receiving information via mass media methods (such as radio and TV). There are a host of fantastic products and services available to help the church communicate with their members and prospects on a personal level, and the best of the best all come from the same company, Personal Communication Systems. This company is no stranger to me, or to longtime readers of CCMag. I have used their products for over a decade. However, they are now offering so many wonderful ways to help churches and ministries deliver personal voice messages that we need to do a complete overview of their many new services.
The PhoneTree 2100 can be described as the entry-level PhoneTree and has many of the telephone messaging features most requested in todays busy church. It is an all-digital USB product that has unlimited list capacity. It can make up to one phone call a minute (or 60 an hour) on a single phone line. However, you can add up to four phone lines, increasing your ability to 240 calls an hour.
The machine has the ability to detect answering machines and can wait for the beep before leaving your message. If this line is busy, or there isnt an answer, PhoneTree will remember to try again later. It even knows to call back busy lines sooner than it will for those that did not answer, just like you would!
PhoneTree kid-zone protection makes sure your message is not lost if a child simply answers the phone by asking the recipients to press the number 9 in order to hear your message.
Just as with all PhoneTree systems, the PhoneTree 2100 includes remote access. This feature allows you to initiate a call session from any touch-tone phone, in the event that its difficult or inconvenient to come to the office to use PhoneTree.
Even though the 2100 is easy to set up and use, it still provides their most popular features, including producing auto reports, screening for duplicate names and phone numbers, pager call-back notification. You can import data from existing lists, and offer up to 6 touch-tone replies. It also offers a built-in voice mailbox, CD-quality 16-bit sound, detailed reporting and more. As an example, you can take a list of those willing to drive your bus, and send a quick message to only that list, in order to find someone to fill in for a sick driver for the upcoming youth trip next weekend. By using the touch-tone replies, you can ask each person if they would be willing to help out, and record their response via which number they selected. The ensuing report would tell you what the responses were, and who could help fill in!
The unit can also double as an answering machine connected to your computer, and even allows you to check your messages remotely. And, all of the features are easily customized and accessed from a windowed menu on your computer screen. And, of course, you can set up security to help control who uses your PhoneTree, etc. The retail price for the PhoneTree 2100 is $999.
The PhoneTree 2500 has all of the features of the 2100 model, with several important additions. You can send companion e-mails alone with your calls. This is not only a good way to insure that your message is getting through, but you can send additional information in the e-mail, including attachments!
The 2500 unit offers multi-lingual capabilities, allowing you to send messages in several different languages within one call session. And, you can have several different call jobs working at once, even if you are using only one phone line. You have the ability to choose which job is called first, in case there is an emergency or something is time-critical.
The 2500 unit is fully network capable and advanced multi-line capable. The suggested price for the PhoneTree 2500 is $1,499.
The PhoneTree 3500 has all of the features of the previous models, with the addition of the PhoneTree Flex Fields Feature. This feature lets you construct messages section-by-section based on your existing data. This is kind of like using mail-merge in a series of word docs. For example, your message would go out something like this, Hello, this is Steve. I am calling for (NAME) to remind you of (EVENT) which is coming up on (DATE) at (TIME). Each person on your call list would hear a unique message, customized for them. This feature is great when you need to confirm appointments, such as sittings with the photographer for the church directory.
To create these constructed messages, you can record the message snippets yourself, or use the exciting and powerful Text-to-Speech option. The voice technology is so realistic your congregation will ask Who is the new employee? You can choose either Kate (the female voice) or Paul, the male voice.
The 3500 also allows you to send unique, constructed e-mail messages, either along with a call session or alone. This is just another great way to insure that your members stay in the loop.
If a call is unanswered, the PhoneTree 3500 can attempt an alternate phone number (cell phone, pager, etc.). The menu system that comes with the 3500 is pretty impressive. Simply import your data, select the messages content and the message is created, using the various flex fields and your personalized message begin to go out! The suggested price for the PhoneTree 3500 is $2,499.
Internet Voice Messaging
PhoneTree offers another innovative service that allows you to use the Internet to make broadcast voice messages to specific groups. Visit myPhoneTree.com and you can set up an account that will allow you to send messages to unique groups from anywhere, anytime.
After you have set up an account, you can log in, input your calling list, and then call a toll-free number to record your message. Thats it, PhoneTree does the rest. And, since the phone calls are being sent out via this Internet service, people are called much faster than if you were using a specific unit and existing phone lines.
With this service, there is no equipment to buy or software to install. And you can log on to see the status report when the call session is completed! For more information on this service, including pricing, visit www.myPhoneTree.com.
PhoneTree has been providing quality products and services for the church for as long as I can remember! Their recent line of products provides a good array of features and prices. Personal communication is the key if a church wants to insure that their members feel connected and informed. Investing in a PhoneTree will easily pay for itself. Using PhoneTree will help members remain active in church events because they are better informed. PhoneTree offers a feature on all models to assist you in getting more people involved. (not just the 20% who provide 80% of the service) Additionally, you will notice the increase in personal productivity when you dont have to focus on making all the calls yourself. Other professions such as doctors and dentists have long valued the importance of voice reminders. Research has shown that using e-mail alone is not as effective as a telephone call. It is time that the church takes advantage of message delivery systems to help keep their members better informed, surveyed, or reminded of upcoming events.
For more information, either visit www.phonetree.com, or call them toll free at 800-951-8733.
By Steve Hewitt