Hung Up About Missed Calls? Not Anymore

Every so often, business associates and/or friends recommend a product or service they consider worthy of being a subject of this column. In the past I’ve resisted the temptation to write about anything that didn’t purport to have at least some e-business attachment.

But, considering that most of my readership have at-home computers connected to the Web, and guessing that most, like myself, use their home phone line as the connection to their ISP, I felt that this product/service would be of interest to most of them. The product is known as Internet Call Manager ( (new window)) offered by InfoInterActive, a Bedford, Nova Scotia application service provider.

The basic function of Internet Call Manager (ICM) is to allow you to eliminate missing telephone calls when you’re surfing the ‘Net. Considering the fact that my spouse receives a great number of e-mails and Internet orders for the cosmetic company she represents, I thought that, at the worst, the ICM product would allow me to personally get through the numerous busy signals that I encounter when calling home.

“InfoInterActive was formed in 1996 after the acquisition of Interactive Telecom Inc., a private company that I founded in 1994,” says Bill McMullin, the firm’s CEO and founder. “The idea for our flagship product, Internet Call Manager, began in 1995 with a vision of converging Internet and telephony networks.”

By 1997, he continued, InfoInterActive had launched ICM, calling it the world’s first service to allow Internet users to monitor and manage calls while their phone lines are busy engaged on an Internet session. Available across North America, ICM’s patented technology is used by more than 200,000 households and businesses. To date, ICM has handled more than 50 million calls for consumers. “This clearly illustrates the usefulness and simplicity of the service—a sentiment often echoed by our customers, many of which phone or write to tell us how much they like ICM.”

Bill added, that although located in Nova Scotia, the company currently has approximately 20 servers located throughout North America.

Now for the test—I downloaded a small file from the ICM home page, and then called myself from my cell phone. As advertised, a small pop-up window immediately appeared on my monitor, advising me that I had a phone call, noting the calling number. I was also presented with a series of clickable options: 1. Play message, 2. Voice mail, 3. Ignore.

“ICM offers extensive call management features. With our direct service, users can acknowledge calls with one of two messages they can record themselves—I’ll call you back or you call me back,” explains McMullin. “They can also select the ignore option, which will play a ringing sound until the caller hangs up, or they can send the call to their ICM Web-based voice mail so the caller can leave a message.”

ICM then notifies users of new messages, which can be retrieved from a personal, secure Web page. In selected cities, ICM users also have the option to answer calls or transfer them to another number, such as a cell phone. It uses a phone feature known as Call Forward Busy so it can automatically notify users of calls when they’re online. This service is available from local telephone companies and in most cases InfoInterActive can order it on a customer’s behalf.

Quick math shows that ICM is about a quarter of the cost of an additional phone line and costs much less than high-speed Internet access. It starts at $4.17 per month and subscriptions are available monthly, semi-annually or annually. (The longer you subscribe, the better the price.) Some telephone companies charge a set-up fee and a small monthly fee (usually between $1 and $3.50) for the Call Forward Busy service. Users will receive details by e-mail during the sign-up process. ICM does not require Call Waiting or Caller ID and it works with all ISPs including AOL.

If you don’t want to miss personal phone calls, or are expecting Ed McMahon or Regis Philbin to call, give their free trial offer consideration.

Bob Lewis is VP of IT at the Unified Foodservice Purchasing Cooperative (Louisville, KY).