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NEW YORK -- Did your home computer come with software for editing pictures or making greeting cards, but you've never even opened it? Have you ever used all the features of your personal digital assistant, like beaming files to another unit, or do you stick with just the basic functions?
Modern technological conveniences may be designed by "geeks" who see their job as putting new tools to work for consumers, but getting consumers to use and appreciate them requires the users to appreciate what's been designed into the tools and to learn the keystrokes that really open up their potential.
Even home call-management services Verizon customers have been ordering in record numbers have enormous potential for helping simplify life, provided customers first learn to use them and then get creative inputting them to work.
"Verizon's state-of-the-art network has huge built-in intelligence that we've put to work in the form of common services like Call Waiting and Caller ID," said Jill Wagner, vice president of consumer marketing for Verizon. "We keep adding new technology-based solutions like Internet Call Manager, which identifies an incoming call right on your computer screen when you're using a dial-up line to surf the Web, because the network is intelligent and that intelligence is a great consumer tool."
Even basic tools like an additional line or Distinctive Ring, which feeds up to three different phone numbers into a single line and rings the phone differently depending on which number was dialed, can be overlooked for their problem-solving potential, according to Wagner.
"Across the country, we're selling packages of services in record numbers --packages that bring the most popular and useful services together at a discounted price, because we believe that enriching the power of the phone line serving each customer will help them not only manage calls, but solve problems," Wagner said. "We hope consumers get creative in putting these tools to work for them as they live their lives."
Don't miss that call or, yes, you can do three things at once: Going to a holiday party or a school program? Did you think of forwarding your home calls to your wireless phone or to grandmother's house so you don't miss that call from the boss or the dishwasher repair service? Or, using Ultra-Forward, you can redirect your calls while you're out of the house so they still follow you when you go somewhere else.
Your time can be your own: Yes, it's nice to have Caller ID tell you who's calling before you answer the phone, but did you think of using that service as a time-management tool? If you're in the middle of paying bills, why not finish the task and return the call from your chatty friend later?
Two lines are better than one: Got teen-agers, a home office and dial-up Internet service? An additional phone line can keep the main line open for incoming calls while it enables other kinds of simultaneous communication. Or, get DSL service so that second line has a high-speed computer connection and a full-function voice-grade circuit available for other uses.
Every household needs the super-tool of life management: Home Voice Mail is a mainstay of modern life. Built right into the Verizon network, it takes and stores messages even when you're on the phone, or when the power that would supply an answering machine is knocked out by a winter storm or even if your phone service goes out. One phone number can have up to nine mailboxes so that individual family members or roommates sharing a phone can receive and review messages privately.
Home Voice Mail is much more than an answering device. It's an alarm clock: the service can be programmed to give a wake-up call at a specified time every morning. It's mom's and dad's reminder service for their kids: reminder messages can be recorded and set to ring the phone at specific times -- wash a load of laundry, take the steak out of the freezer for dinner, pick up little brother after soccer practice. Home Voice Mail is an emergency back-up system: parents can program the system to page them when messages are left from important callers - teachers, elderly relatives, doctors.
Stay at home and have a reunion, plan a party: Three-Way Calling, available by subscription or on a per-use basis, makes planning an event -- or discussing a party the day after -- an easy matter. One person can dial up two others and hold a mini-conference call.
"Watson, come here, I need you": With Home Intercom and Intercom Extra, you can call another extension inside the home, just like you do at work. And you can "transfer" an incoming call to a specific extension just by dialing a few keys.
"These and other services are all simple to use, once you get the hang of it and learn the activation codes," Wagner said. "When you sign up for them, we send a user's guide with complete details on how to make them work. But it's up to the customer to put them to work day by day as they live their lives."
The easiest way to shop for call-management services is at www.verizon.com, Verizon's recently redesigned Web site. Check out the benefits of each service and what these tools can do and order them online by registering at the site. Or, discuss your family's needs with a Verizon service representative for more tips and ideas.
Verizon has packaged many of the most popular services for easy ordering and at discounted prices. When purchased in a package, optional services, such as Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and Speed Dialing, can cost up to 60 percent less than when purchased individually.
"Our customers have told us what they want in a package deal," Wagner said. "So we offer several plans across the country which can save many of our customers a lot of money. Our service representatives will help customers decide what they need to better manage their communications, and then customize a package that fits those needs."
Many offerings include discounts on local service, long distance, local directory assistance, dial-up Internet service and other optional convenience services including Caller ID, Call Waiting, Busy Redial and Three-Way Calling. Depending on location and services chosen, package prices range from about $10 a month to about $60 a month, with an average monthly cost of about $25.
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 approximately $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.