Monday, June 4, 2012

Campaigns are here today, gone tomorrow. Resources are short and time is scarce. The relatively short shelf life of a campaign makes investing in expensive software not realistic. Installation of costly equipment for a campaign that usually lasts for six months rarely makes sense and when you have multiple offices it makes even less sense. One of the most glaring examples of this would be buying a dedicated campaign phone line. For one, installation of a phone a system is both costly and is time consuming. Most of the major telecom providers providers require long term contracts that often outlive the duration of the campaign. The lengthy installation period often can take far too long. Even as it pertains to in-house IP phone systems, setting up a server box in a campaign is not realistic when financial resources are tight and there are no in-house IT people on site. While traditional telephone hardware packages may not be the best suit to meet the unique of political campaigns, cloud based phone solutions offer a more reliable alternative. Cloud based telephony providers like CallFire offer local and toll free numbers that can be leased on a monthly basis at a minimal cost of one to two dollars per month. There are no long term contracts—you just use the solution for as long as you need the product. The CallFire platform also allows you create a virtual receptionist with customizable messages to greet your volunteers and route the call to the appropriate party within the campaign. The virtual receptionist functionality has many advantages that are of particular interest to a campaign:

  • Connect to remote teams. Depending on the particular organization, campaign teams can be spread across a state, or be working remotely from various offices. The virtual receptionist, allows you to create multiple extensions that can route calls to departments and staff wherever they are in the country.
  • Create Multiple Departments. With your virtual receptionist, callers can be routed to any department within your campaign. If an interested volunteer wants to speak to a field organizer, the virtual receptionist can have the call be routed to all your staff within your field team. Or if you offer rides to the polls during GOTV you can have all the callers who needed a ride to be forwarded directly to your GOTV drivers.
  • No Hardware. Your virtual receptionist requires no hardware. There’s no need to clog up your temporary office space with clunky telecom servers. Using a virtual receptionist to route your calls directly to your staffs cell phones makes it unnecessary to purchase desk or cell phones for your staff. When your staff receives their call it will show up as a call from your hosted telephone number.
  • Answering Machine Service. While it may seem like campaigners are wired in 24/7, just like anyone office environment, they too miss calls. With your virtual receptionist you can make sure that all you get all your voice messages emailed to you or you can check on the intuitive user interface to check your unheard messages.

Getting a local or toll free phone number and setting up your very own virtual receptionist has many advantages over traditional phone services. The set up process is minimal—usually within a matter of an hour—and the costs are minimal. The lower barrier to entry and ease of use makes it particularly suitable for campaigns.