Sunday 25 January 2015

The Moving Series Episode 4: Sally Cooper looks at Communications: Phone and Mail

If you want to sell to Sally, forget advertising, its all serendipity: let her tell you the tale of her telecoms purchases. BT loses out but Royal Mail proves a star

Some twenty years ago, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys gathered in Stratford-Upon-Avon for its Annual Conference. Delegates were (with varying degrees of apprehension enthusiasm) looking ahead to 1st April 1996 when OHIM would officially open for business in Alicante and when WIPO would accept Trade Mark Applications from the UK under the Madrid Protocol. And in my luggage was my first (brick-size) mobile phone.

At the end of 2014, the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys held a Reception in Edinburgh. In my pocket when I took the train south (from Edinburgh to Windermere) was a newly-acquired Vodafone Smart 4. Why?

“I can't get a signal” could be a cause of frustration or it could be a cause for celebration. In business terms, it's going to be frustration. And, in Cumbria, there are places which have network coverage from one operator but not from another (and there are places where there is no coverage at all).

 I wanted a phone that could use 4G and (because I'm a serial loser of mobile phones and careful about money) I wanted to start by using PayAsYouGo / see what I could get for around £100. Also, I had recently visited Wray Castle. This National Trust property on the north-west shores of Windermere was (before opening to the public in 2011) leased to a telecommunications company which not only “wired” the Castle but also left the legacy of a mast on the tower – now a Vodafone mast.

The final piece of the jigsaw was my hotel in Edinburgh (end of 2014) being in the same block as the Vodafone store on Princes Street. It was a swift purchase. I had a train to catch. And an appointment to keep – to collect the keys to my new office in Windermere.

The only “blip” with the phone so far has been self-inflicted (if you can self-inflict a “blip”). I walked nervously into a Vodafone store and explained I was happy with the phone – but it didn't seem to want to take incoming calls. Oh! The embarrassment on learning that its number began 07918 and not 07819! Problem solved in an instant!

 In fact, I was so embarrassed that I went on to explain my intention to use the phone “for business” and “in Cumbria” after the end of 2014. In subsequent discussion, the words “virtual landline” entered my vocabulary. Also, I was introduced to the idea that, whilst BT has restrictions on allowing a number to be taken “out of area” (and a first conversation with BT had said “no” to taking 0161 (Manchester) numbers to Cumbria), a BT number can be “ported” to another telecoms provider.

I learned a lot more about virtual landlines through watching the videos for Vodafone's One Net service. In essence, that service provides both “local numbers” (so clients / customers feel they are dealing with a “local business”) and “when one phone isn't answered by the business - move call seamlessly to the next phone - so client / customer is sure of talking to someone and doesn't have to leave a message” (a service for which there's undoubtedly a technical term).

I wasn't interested in “when one phone isn't answered” but I was very interested in being able to keep two 0161 (Manchester) numbers. I had used 0161 941 3362 for twenty-four years (latterly phone and internet) and 0161 941 1246 for nearly as long (latterly fax and internet) and I didn't want to leave them behind / release them back to BT.

In the end, I decided Vodafone's One Net service offered more than I needed. But searching “virtual landline” on the internet took me to Virtual Landline and present circumstances. Both 0161 941 3362 and 0161 941 1246 were “ported” from BT on 31st December 2014. When anyone calls either number, their call is (automatically / seamlessly) forwarded by Virtual Landline to the Vodafone (number beginning 07918). I'm still a novice on other features of the service and will be experimenting further with (a) the app which seems to allow me to make outgoing calls from the Vodafone with number given to recipient as 0161 941 3362 and (b) the various “message” services that operate when the Vodafone is not answered / switched off – extending to a voice mail being left at the email address of

So – at present – no land line: though paying for a land line to sit alongside the Ethernet cable that links computer-on-desk to the internet remains an option.

Royal Mail

To end – a few words about post. I thought I had time but I didn't. I set about providing people with change-of-address information in days and weeks following collecting keys to the new office (1st November 2014), but it was Friday 12th December 2014 (exchange of contracts) when it was confirmed I had five days to clear old office on Wednesday 17th December 2014 (completion). Royal Mail's “redirect” service is available on its website and I just had to live with two things. One is that Royal Mail requires five days' notice to redirect so (in my case) redirect wasn't going to happen until Friday 19th December 2014. The other is that the on line service works through postcodes – and my new office isn't listed as a building, but by reference to the businesses in the building. I'm still waiting for the people who purchased on 17th December 2014 to forward the few items of post that arrived on 18th / 19th December 2014, but the redirect service has been brilliant notwithstanding the local postman having to deliver post for four people and for my office to a very small (domestic) postbox. The only attempted“gone astray” I know of so far is a letter sent by courier to old address. It came from Latvia and was confirmation of letter sent by email. DHL called 0161 941 3362 when unable to deliver / Virtual Landline forwarded to the Vodafone / I picked up DHL's message / returned the call to explain the position / DHL kindly delivered to Cumbria.

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