Chicago, IL | p: 773.338.1313

June 5, 2011

No Signal in the Bunker…

But it didn’t stop us from breaking up with our phone system.

Several years back, when we had more full time employees and were in a different office space we realized that we needed a phone system. A professional, multi-unit, whole mess of buttons phone system. And just like that, our business felt very bussiness-ey. It wasn’t easy, either. We had to research all sorts of systems and at that time, the so called coolest feature was that it could tie in to your computer and do neat things – if you had a PC. We did not. We have always been Mac based. So there. We had to get a server just for the phone system – the phone system that could do neat stuff on a PC, although none of us ever saw any of this on our awesome Macs. We also had to have some clod come out and teach us all how to use the phone. It was, honestly, a pain in the ass. An expensive pain in the ass.

So, here we are today. We have been in our present office a few years, have slimmed down our workforce, and efficiently make use of our time and space. With one exception – those phones. One in the reception area (unused) one in our break/meeting area (rarely used) one on each of our desks (unfortunately used). Half the features are unneeded, the computer options never realized. The rest of the phones previously used rest in a box in a closet. Each is a bulky, buttony, blinking albatross. Blinking because we have long lost the pass codes for several of the phones, so whatever news was left on voicemail, we will never know.

The old, clunky, PC server sits downstairs whirring away, sucking up energy so that we may answer calls from solicitors and call in for sushi. We do have client conference calls (also a real treat to try and configure) and such, but the majority of our contact is done through email or instant messaging.

Phones have always seemed so… permanent. Remember your grandmother’s phone? The one. The only one. The one that weighed 400 pounds, with a rotary dial and a cord so long it could circle the globe, twice. That one. Permanent. So I couldn’t get rid of our phone system. It worked, it was there, it was installed. It took guys and tools and beer to install it at our new office. It was plugged in to a jack. Permanent.

Then it happened.

I had been worrying over the phone system – because it sucks, see above. It had been suggested that we ditch the whole thing and use cell phones. This, I thought, was ridiculous due to the fact that we could not use our office phone number, and, more importantly, our office is evidently constructed out of some oddball bunker material that creates a cell phone signal vortex flushing any thought of phone usage into the depths of hell. So there’s that. We were all at a stalemate. We knew we would have to just deal with the old phone system for the rest of our lives. One day, I was throwing away all the mail except checks and bills like I always do, when the back of a flyer caught my eye. It was from AT&T and in the corner there was a small ad for an app called Office@Hand. It had a picture of an iPhone! We all have iPhones! And it said, “Get a professional, full-featured business phone system that works with your existing wireless and office phones. Connect all your employees with one system—whether they’re in the office or in the field.”

I can do that! Sure, maybe we won’t be able to get any calls ever with our reception in the office, but golly this thing seemed cool. I went online and found out more info. You can see all your calls ON YOUR MAC! You can record your own greeting. You can assign departments and extensions. You can be in the bathtub and someone can call your office and the call comes straight through – to the bathtub. Seamlessly. It looked awesome. I’ll take it.

And I did. Why yes, we all did have to upgrade to iPhone 4’s to get half decent reception in the office, but hey, they’re cool, right? Even better, we got rid of the phones, well, almost, they are on the air hockey table waiting for some sucker, er, some kickass person to buy them on ebay. I got to cancel my two other office lines, which saves a lot, in fact, I was paying more than the monthly Office@Hand fee. We got to keep our established, well-liked office phone number. Turns out, with Office@Hand, you can have your phone number transferred to their magic cloud, yes, cloud and from there it lives on, catching calls in the air and filtering them like fairy dust to their intended recipient. They even give you a toll free line and a fax line. It is amazing. We are all thrilled, and solicitors do not bother us anymore, now that they have to choose from a menu who to bother.

I do have to say, not having a traditional phone on my desk anymore is weird. The permanence of a phone-phone has switched to something personal. Cell phones are personal. What if someone comes in off the street and asks to use the phone? I don’t want some stranger using my phone, that is like someone asking to wear your sock. Blech. But I wouldn’t go back. I do wonder what to do with that empty phone jack on the wall. It now seems so old timey.