Keep In Touch

Up In The Air

What wireless system you use should depend on a variety of factors, including budget, work habits and travel expectations.

Wireless communications can be expensive. If you're on a tight budget, paging is more affordable, with pricing plans starting at just a few dollars a month. Because it's easy for one cellular user to rack up a few hundred dollars' worth of calls each month, the phone should be used to generate significant income, not to call home and ask what's for dinner. Because digital phones offer caller ID, one way to reduce costs (and wasted time) is to screen your calls and let the unwanted ones go straight to voice mail.

If you own a service-based business that relies heavily on customer service, a cellular phone could increase your response time. Or, if you work in an environment where you can't be bothered with talking on the phone, a pager could do just fine.

Travel habits are also key. If your business is local, your concerns are minimal. But if you travel extensively, be sure your carrier has coverage in the areas you travel to. And remember, not all areas are served by digital service, so you'll need a dual-mode phone that switches from digital to analog.

Once you've chosen your technology, put a few policies in place. Explain to employees what portable phones should and should not be used for. Also, discuss your expectations for response time. If employees start handing out pager and cellular numbers and messages go unreturned, customers are liable to become even more frustrated than before.

Wireless communications have come a long way. Although problems still exist, if implemented correctly, this technology can make your life a lot easier.

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Keep In Touch.

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