Springfield, MO

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More customers buy into Bell's add-on services

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by Michele Skalicky

SBJ Contributing Writer

More and more Southwestern Bell Telephone customers are choosing to buy add-on services. In fact, half of the phone company's customers in its five-state area Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas have Caller ID, according to Southwestern Bell spokesperson Julie Anthony.

Customers have a variety of vertical, or add-on, services to choose from, including Call Notes (a voice-mail service), Call Waiting, Call Trace, Three-Way Calling and Call Blocker.

"Southwestern Bell leads the industry in marketing vertical services," Anthony said. The company has a penetration of 2.27 vertical services per phone line.

Anthony attributes that to the fact that additional phone services give customers control over time, and personal safety and security. For example, Caller ID allows a customer to monitor where a call is coming from by displaying the phone number of the caller before the customer picks up the phone.

Caller ID can help a professional working from home to distinguish between personal and business calls so they know how to answer the phone, Anthony said.

Call Trace tracks down phone calls and identifies the number from which the calls are placed.

Services like Call Notes and Call Return are popular with businesses since they offer convenience.

Call Notes' voice-mail service prevents the business owner from missing important phone calls, such as a potential customer calling to inquire about products and services.

Call Return remembers the last number that called a home or business so the customer can return the call at his or her convenience. Call Return remembers the number and dials it for the customer. It will keep trying if the number is busy.

"Anything that makes that communication easier, quicker and more reliable is of value to that business," Anthony said. "And as technology allows us to provide more and more useful services, communication can only improve and, thus, business itself can improve."

New add-on services are in the works for 1999, but Anthony wouldn't reveal what they might be. "There will be some interesting new products for 1999," she said. They should start emerging in the first quarter of the new year.

Until then, customers have plenty of services to choose from. Southwestern Bell currently offers about 73 different services, including Automatic Call Distributor, which takes a large volume of incoming calls and directs each to the next available phone line. Business Access Line supplements the phone service businesses already have. Disaster Routing Service sets up contingency plans for routing calls to "safe" numbers when a customer's phone service fails due to disaster or a planned lapse of service. Home Security protects a customer's home with a state-of-the-art security system from Southwestern Bell and round-the-clock monitoring from Premier Detection.

"We want to keep our customers happy. If we can provide them with cutting-edge services then hopefully our customers will be happy," Anthony said.

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