WASHINGTON and CHICAGO -- Whether business person or consumer, the average American now has two voice mailboxes, a mobile phone, a landline phone and multiple e-mail accounts that together generate an enormous number of incoming messages -- an average of almost 80 messages daily, according to industry experts.
Consumers and business people can get rid of the hassles of keeping up with all those messages and gain control over their communications with a new Verizon service introduced today. Called Verizon Unified Communications, the offering is now available to consumers and businesses in the Washington, D.C., area, and to small businesses in Chicago.
"People want to better manage and control this deluge of messages -- from anywhere, at anytime, with any device," said Richard McCusker, director of Retail Messaging Solutions for Verizon. "Verizon Unified Communications fits the needs of any small business or consumer who is flooded with messages from every direction."
"We designed the Unified Communications offering based on what mobile professionals and small businesses need to deliver excellent customer service and stay ahead of the competition," said McCusker. "They told us they wanted to access their e-mail from anywhere, so we included in the offering a text-to-speech capability for listening to e-mails over the phone." In addition, a speech interface is included for convenience and hands-free navigation.
Verizon's new service -- developed and provided by uReach Technologies, Inc. -- places the subscriber's communications into one message box that is accessible from anywhere and provides access to voice mail, e-mail, faxes and files. The message box can be accessed from any phone, Web browser or wireless Web-enabled device.
The Verizon service also provides a personal universal phone number that subscribers can use for all of their communications. The number, which can be a local number or a toll-free number, can be used for reaching the subscriber, leaving messages, listening to e-mail and sending faxes. Subscribers can choose when and where they can be reached using a feature that forwards calls using a "find me/follow-me" function. The service also gives subscribers access to documents via Web-based file storage.
Here's how Verizon Unified Communications works:
- Phone Service: Subscribers give their clients and associates a single number to reach them or to send them faxes. The "find me/follow me" feature automatically routes calls made to the universal number to as many as four of the subscriber's wireline or wireless numbers. Subscribers can screen calls by listening to the recorded name of a caller before taking the call. If they are unable to take the call or prefer not to answer, the service will take a message. Calls also can be placed from the universal number.
- Universal Message Box: Voice mail, e-mail and faxes received in the universal message box can be accessed from a phone, the Web or a wireless Web-enabled device. Subscribers can listen and even reply to e-mail messages using any phone. Subscribers also may receive e-mail directly into their Verizon Unified Communications accounts and/or e-mail from other accounts can be delivered to the Unified Communications single inbox.
- Personal Information Manager: Features include a calendar, activity list, contact and address book, reminder functionality and file storage. Calendar and address book information can be synchronized with other personal information managers like Microsoft® Outlook® and also wireless Web-enabled device such as PalmTM or Visor.
- Message Notification: Subscribers can have the service alert them of new messages and items on their calendar via phone, pager, e-mail or instant message.
- Virtual Fax Machine: Faxes sent to the subscriber's universal number can be viewed from a Web browser or forwarded to any fax machine from a phone or wireless Web-enabled device. Customers can get notified via phone, pager, e-mail or instant message upon receiving a fax.
- Conference Calls: Two conference services are available. No-Reservation Conferencing for up to four participants can be set up on the spot. For planned calls, Reservation Conferencing is available for up to 12 participants.
- Virtual Filing Cabinet: Files can be stored in a secure data center and retrieved using a Web browser or wireless Web-enabled device, enabling customers to store and access files no matter where they are working. Files can be attached to e-mail messages, and Microsoft Word documents can be forwarded to any nearby fax machine.
"More than 55 million U.S. households are using wireless phones, 57 million households have Internet access, and upwards of 18 million households subscribe to home voice mail," said Aurica Yen, Yankee Group analyst. "The consumer dilemma of 'missed' and mismanaged communications is growing with the increased penetration of those communications services. For consumers who depend on quick and reliable access to communications, such as telecommuters, those with home-based businesses and those with small offices, Verizon Unified Communications service offers an ideal solution to meet their lifestyle demands."
"Verizon's Unified Communications service provides a simple, yet powerful way for Verizon customers to access and manage all types of communications anywhere, anytime," said Krishnamurty Kambhampati, president and CEO of uReach Technologies "Verizon continues to demonstrate its leadership in listening to their customers' communications needs and introducing innovative services to meet those needs."
The service requires no additional equipment or software. Three local number packages and three toll-free number packages are available.
The local number packages available in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland are: $9.95 a month including 30 minutes of outbound calling time; $15.95 with 100 minutes, and $22.95 with 200 minutes. The toll-free number packages are: $12.95 a month including 30 minutes of inbound and outbound calling time; $18.95 with 100 minutes, and $25.95 with 200 minutes. Additional minutes are billed at a per-minute rate of nine cents for local service and ten cents for toll-free calls. Reservation Conferencing and additional storage can be purchased for an additional charge. More information is available by visiting www.verizon-uc.com or by calling 888-822-5049.
For businesses in Chicago, the local number packages are: $19.95 a month including 150 minutes of outbound calling time; $29.95 with 300 minutes, and $39.95 with 450 minutes. The toll-free number packages are: $22.95 a month including 150 minutes of inbound and outbound calling time; $32.95 with 300 minutes, and $42.95 with 450 minutes. Additional minutes are billed at a per-minute rate of nine cents for local service and 12 cents for toll-free calls. There is a one-time set-up charge of $15. Reservation Conferencing and additional storage can be purchased for an additional charge. More information is available by visiting www.verizon-uweb.com or by calling 888-822-6042.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 128.5 million access line equivalents and approximately 28.7 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with 256,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.
uReach Technologies' solutions simplify the way in which people communicate in today's increasingly virtual and information-rich world. The company's unified communications solutions enable any information -- in any form, such as email, voicemail, faxes or paging messages -- to be accessed from any device. uReach's carrier-class Enhanced Services Framework enables wireless, wireline and broadband service providers to quickly deploy unified communications services that complement their core services and provide an unparalleled communications experience for their customers, while generating new recurring revenue and retaining valuable customers. Based in Holmdel, N.J., uReach is a privately held company. For more information, visit www.uReachCorp.com.