Automated Phone tree program

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MichaelCHunsaker
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Automated Phone tree program

Postby MichaelCHunsaker » Sat Mar 03, 2007 6:09 pm

Several weeks ago on a Saturday a sprinker head popped and flooded half the carpet in our building. Sunday meetings were cancelled. The Relief Society and Priesthood did telephone phone trees and e-mail announcements. The majority of the people found out. Still, there were a few for each of the three wards that use the building that never found out. One family in my ward was notified six or seven times; my family never was.

I think the easiest solution to inform everyone of last minite changes is to use computer based telephone tree calling solfware. Browsing the Internet, I couldn't see anything that was free or inexpensive.

Does anyone know if such software is available that a ward can use. If not, this sounds like an easy program to develop: Dump the ward telephone list from MLS into the database, bishop records a message, program start dialing.

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Postby russellhltn » Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:56 pm

Michael wrote:One family in my ward was notified six or seven times; my family never was.


Sounds like an organizational issue. The list should have been divided and each caller should have had a specific set to call.

Michael wrote:Does anyone know if such software is available that a ward can use. If not, this sounds like an easy program to develop: Dump the ward telephone list from MLS into the database, bishop records a message, program start dialing.


How common are voice-capable modems? We have to have hardware that's capable to recognizing a busy signal, and an answer and can play the message into the phone line.

The second issue is what is your timing constraints? Given just a single dialer, how long is acceptable to reach the last person? Given a 30 second call cycle, I'm guessing it would be close to 1.5 - 2 hours before it was complete - assuming no busy signals. That's probably cutting it too close for the first ward that was meeting in the building, but would be fine for the other two.

An automated system sounds like a good idea, but probably needs to be implemented higher up where there's more phone lines and the equipment is unlikely to be disturbed by whatever is causing the local emergency.

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greenwoodkl
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Postby greenwoodkl » Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:02 am

I agree it would be more effective at a higher level to utilize more capacity to reach more people in a shorter time.

Has anyone looked into the equipment/software that some schools use to report attendance over the phone? I don't know the name of it, but I know most of my schools (almost a decade ago) as a teenager had a system that would auto-call every home where a student missed classes and report the attendance.

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lincles-p40
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Postby lincles-p40 » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:33 am

a VoIP solution would eliminate the need for hardware. It would also allow for concurrent calls as most VoIP providers bill by the minute rather than concurrent connections. A single SIP connection using a low bandwith codec uses about 8 to 10 kbs plus a little bit of overhead for the call control - so the number of concurrent calls depends on how much bandwith your ISP gives you - but in most cases at least 5 or 6 concurrent calls.

A SIP client could be written that connects to a VoIP provider (there's a ton of them now), makes calls from a list, and reports whether the call was revieved or not. Most major programing languages have SIP libraries available so the programing would not be too hard.

Although you are paying for the VoIP provider (which is less than 2 cents a minute in most cases), you wouldn't need to buy and install expensive specialized hardware.

LLurie-p40
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Automating the phone tree

Postby LLurie-p40 » Wed Mar 07, 2007 5:49 am

You may wish to check out this church friendly service www.onecallnow.com/church that allows you to load a list of numbers, (web or from file) into a roster, segregate by committee, class, etc. then dial toll free number, record a message, and it dials everyone in seconds to play your message. call reports show who was called and reached (live, machine, busy, etc) and you can capture touch tone reply "if you can attend, press 1..." Caller ID can show your number so people won;t block call. There's no hardware, software, phone lines or geeky stuff required.

Yes, I work for them, so please excuse the shameless plug, but we serve 20,000 churches, schools and youth groups throughout North America who send hundreds of thousands of calls every day.

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WelchTC
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Postby WelchTC » Wed Mar 07, 2007 9:50 am

May I remind everyone that according to the code of conductthat everyone agreed to when signing up for the forums, commercial messages may not be posted.

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Thanks

Tom

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WelchTC
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Postby WelchTC » Thu Mar 08, 2007 5:44 am

I've had several people PM me asking what was wrong with LLurie's post so I thought that I would clarify a bit. It is OK to discuss commercial products. What we don't want is to have comments that come off as "selling" or "Advertising" the product. We don't want the forums to become a market place for vendors to sell their wares.

I may have over reacted a bit on this post as I have re-read the post and found that Llurie was just making people aware of a possible solution. However I want to make the strong point that if someone wishes to post about a commercial product, they should ensure that all they are posting is information to make people aware of the product and in now way should they be endorsing, or encouraging the use of the product.

Tom

LLurie-p40
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Call tree solutions

Postby LLurie-p40 » Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:50 am

There are four distinctly different ways to handle emergency or family notification by voice message.
First, the tried and true manual phone tree. I agree with the poists- that to be effective, these need a well planned list, discipline, and a clear process to assure people with busy/no answered numbers get handled properly. Most manual phone trees fail when busy members encounter unreachable people; and fail to 'jump the chain' and call the next branch. (sorry for mixing metaphors).

Second is a do-it-yourself solution; as mentioned in other posts. using voip cards and software, one can create a method to have the church's computer make calls. However, the IT administrator must set up a system, software, access for group leaders to use when initiating calls, have a voip provider, arrange for the proper management of calls, roster mainetnance, and call tracking. Plus determine how to program for re-trys of busy and no answers. as well as reporting of the rsesults to the group leader. The ongoing cost can be fractions of a penny per call to 7 cents per call, depending on location, destination numbers, plus fixed monthly costs and of course the time and energy to develop, install and configure and manage.

Third is a dialer device made by companies such as phonemaster and phonetree, these toaster size boxes connect to PC via usb, and to 1 or more analog phone lines via rj-11 cable. Some models can integrate with PBX systems, and some with VOIP PBX systems at your church. They have the software and process down pat; making it easy to load data into their box from church management software, and to trigger a call using a microphone on the box. Thousands of churches use them. The cost is about $1,000 per phone line (1 line can dial about 60 people an hour) and can be ordered with multiple lines at a higher cost. The church needs to provide the phone line (a dedicated line is typically $40.00 per month, some churches use a fax line for this purpose, although this makes the fax line unavailable while calls are being made. Long distance or extended LATA calls (beyiond local calling area have an additional cost, and, depending on your local phone company, in many cities even local calls have a cost-per-call.

Fourth is a service that makes calls using an asp solution, such as onecallnow or callingpost or voiceshot. There are no phone lines required at the church- calls can be initiated from any phone or web browser. These services generally charge a cost per month for unlimited calls to a finite membership roster list (ie 100 families for 45.00/month) , or a cost-per-call -purchased in pre-paid blocks, about 1,000 message deliveries (a call delivered to a person's phone) for $100. To load member names into their secure servers is straightforward, generally exporting lists from the church management system, and uploading. Other than setting up such an export, there is no IT programming required. The asp services can call hundreds or thousands of numbers simultaneously, so everyone can be reached quickly. It is also possible, with most, to set-up sub-groups - so a choir director can contact just choir members, or the basketball team, or missionary group.

(Many churches use these services to call in from foreign countries and give a daily or weekly report of their activities -calling parents and sponsors to spread the word).

Sorry for the long winded post- but wanted to clearly point out alternatives and options for all.

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Postby russellhltn » Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:24 pm

Emergencies are frequently dynamic situations. One advantage of the old fashioned phone tree is the ability to adapt while calling and to gather information about individual status or concerns. An automated system can't do that.

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WelchTC
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Postby WelchTC » Thu Mar 15, 2007 4:38 am

LLurie wrote:There are four distinctly different ways to handle emergency or family notification by voice message.

Good summary of the different options. This gives a clear picture and all of the available choices. Once word of caution. Remember that it is currently against Church policy to upload data exported from MLS or Local Unit Web Sites to a 3rd party server. There is not currently a policy about entering in information on 3rd party Web sites on your own, only the uploading of previously downloaded data. Of course, when entering in any private or confidential data to any Web site, you should use prudence and caution.

Tom


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