Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Call management with the Palm organizer


By Ted Casey

The telephone is such an important part of our professional and personal lives that we may not be fully conscious of how much we use and depend on it. We handle many outgoing and incoming calls each day and often play telephone tag with the people we are trying to talk to. Keeping track of all of the phone calls and messages you receive can be a daunting challenge, especially if that's an important part of your job.

It occurred to me recently that there were convenient features built-into my desktop email program that might also make the process of managing phone calls easier. For example, when I want to address a message to someone, I don't have to remember the email address, I simply type a few letters of the addressees name, or select the name from a list. To reply to an email message, I simply select the reply command after reading the particular message. To see when an old message was sent, I just look in the Sent Messages (or outbox) folder. These features of email programs make email easier to manage. Wouldn't it be great if some of these features were included in an application for managing phone calls? To have this info accessible wherever we might make or receive a phone call, it should utilize the Palm organizer.

There are a few ways to use the Palm organizer to make telephone call management easier. Before looking at the products, let's consider how telephone calls happen and how the Palm could ideally assist us.

Scheduled and outgoing calls

There are occasions when you plan to make a call a day or two in the future. You want to be able to make a record that includes all the necessary information to complete a telephone call, such as the contact name, telephone number, date, time, subject, a note, and category. An alarm to remind you to make the call would be useful too. Records of outgoing calls, once the call has been placed, should also include the result -- whether the call was completed, or if you had to leave voice mail. There are occasions when you'll call someone, leave a message, not get a return call, and then decide to call again. The outgoing call record should be able to generate a follow up call, with the same call data.

Voice mail and receiving calls

When making a note of voice mail messages, you'll ideally want a quick way to enter the date, time, caller's name, company, phone number, subject, message, category and whether the call requires a follow-up. This is essentially an electronic version of the pink "While Your Were Out" note, and the Palm organizer can enter much of this info with only few taps of the stylus. Using the Palm to track phone calls leverages its built-in phone number listings and its portability. For the times when voice mail requires a follow up, the Palm organizer should create a follow-up outgoing call with all of the relevant info copied over.