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AT&T 964 KSU-less Speakerphone with Caller ID and Answering System

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Perhaps your business is just starting out and you're not sure how large it will become. Or maybe you have a handful of employees, but you'd like personal mailboxes for everyone. You could subscribe to your local phone company's voice mail service but it won't sound very professional to your clients. You could install an expensive Public Branch Exchange (PBX) phone system. But do you really want to make that large of an investment?

The new AT&T 4-line KSU-less phone may be the answer to your dilemma. This system lets you network up to 12 extensions together, each with its own voice mailbox. When clients call, they are greeted by an auto-attendant who directs them to the appropriate extension. Similar in functionality to the more complicated and expensive PBXs and Key System Unit (KSU) systems, these phones allow co-workers to transfer the call to each other, even though no additional equipment is required, besides the phones themselves.

Centrex compatibility
One of the biggest benefits of the AT&T 964 KSU-less phone system is that it works smoothly and seamlessly within Centrex environments. This means that the phones can be easily programmed with all the stars, pauses, and codes that access Centrex features. Unlike ordinary telephones, these AT&T phones quickly and easily accept the Centrex code strings. The 964 manual includes a section on Centrex.

(Incidentally, because the AT&T 964 model phones are compatible with AT&T 955 model phones, I am including them in this discussion, wherever it seems to make sense.)

Loaded with other features such as intercom, paging, Caller ID, conference calling, full-duplex speakerphones, headset capabilities, and auto-redial, AT&T 964 KSU-less phones give you most of the functionality of an expensive PBX for just $299.99 per extension. Or, if you don't require voice mail and an auto-attendant, the AT&T 955 provides the same features as the 964, for only $199.99 per extension. Capable of being used together, within the same system, the AT&T 964 and the AT&T 955 provide the opportunity to maintain a professional image without the complications and costs of larger systems.


Setup

Given all of the features you get from this PBX-comparable system, it's surprising how easy the installation is. It even works with your Centrex service.

To begin, plug in your office's analog phone line to the first port on the back of the phone. This port accommodates both RJ-11 (1-line) and RJ-14 (2-line) modular plugs¹ and must be employed for the auto-attendant, transfer, intercom, and paging features to work.²

Next, insert the 9-volt backup battery (included) into the underside of the phone. Then, when you plug in the AC adapter, the LCD will prompt you to begin programming. There are a lot of settings to program, but the prompts are easy to follow and most features will remain at their default. Some of the programmable settings included are: multiple languages for the LCD (English and Spanish), time/date, ringer variations, password setup, message-waiting indicator for those with voice mail, maximum message length, and the time of day you'd like the auto-attendant to switch over to the after-hours message.

In addition to an after-hours message, a daytime announcement and a company directory can be stored. You can keep the professionally recorded day and evening announcements that are already stored in the memory, or you can personalize the announcement by recording your own. If you choose to keep the pre-recorded announcements, you still need to input a directory of employees and their extension numbers for the auto-attendant.

Overall, setup took me about 10 minutes for 2 phones, and I rarely had to consult the operating manual. If you choose to record your own announcements, setup will take another couple of minutes.

Review of features
4 Lines, 12 extensions
AT&T 964 and 955 telephones are KSU-less, which means they do not require a KSU or a PBX, yet support many of the same features. As an example, let's say you purchase 6 phones but have just 2 phone lines. If you receive a call and wish to transfer it to another extension, you can announce the call to your co-worker by pressing the INTERCOM (ICM) button (which automatically places the caller on hold and activates your co-worker's speakerphone) and ask him or her to press line 1 for the call. Important note: the ICM button uses line 1 only, so you'll want to keep line 1 free. So, after pressing ICM, enter the proper extension. When the call is answered, ask the person to pick up line 2, 3, or 4, keeping line 1 free.

Or, simply transfer the caller to the extension directly, without an announcement. Many similar phones can perform these operations but require a second line. With the AT&T 964 and 955 phones, your second line is never occupied but remains available for incoming or outgoing calls.

The 964 and 955 can also prevent callers from "barging in" on your conference calls. The Call Privacy feature allows you to restrict access to some or all lines at an extension, like you would do with a lobby phone. If Call Privacy is active, no one can enter your call while you are talking. Conversely, disabling Call Privacy allows your co-workers to join a conversation by pressing the appropriate line button on their own phone.

Auto-attendant (964 model only)
Auto-attendant is the pre-programmed answering service that answers incoming calls and directs them to the appropriate extensions using one of two outgoing announcements (daytime or nighttime). If the caller doesn't know the extension, he or she can press "0" for a list of names and extensions. Or if you have a small office, you might want to list your extensions in the main announcement and use the extra announcement for office hours, directions, or information on special promotions. Once an extension is selected, the caller is transferred to the appropriate phone. If the employee doesn't answer, the caller is diverted to the employee's voice mailbox.

Once you designate a particular phone as the auto-attendant, this phone will then act as the central router by answering and directing calls to the other extensions. However, since these phones can handle only one call at a time, you might want to set up two of them as auto-attendants. That way, you're covered if the primary auto-attendant phone is in use. If you have multiple auto-attendants, make sure you set up each phone to answer after a different number of rings so 2 phones don't answer at once.

Note: one of the few flaws of the 964 model is that when an incoming call activates the auto-attendant (even if the caller hangs up during the greeting) 30 seconds pass before that line can be used again.

Voice mail (964 model only)
Each phone has its own digital mailbox (with security code) and can store up to 99 messages, memos, or conversation recordings up to a total of 25 minutes in length. If an extension's voice mail is not active when a call is transferred by the auto-attendant, the extension will ring for 1 minute and then the auto-attendant will transfer the call to all extensions. If an extension's Do Not Disturb feature is active when a call is transferred, the extension will silently ring (the LINE indicator will flash) for 1 minute before the call is transferred to all extensions.

Remote voice mail access
Remote access is easy but, unfortunately, there aren't any voice prompts to guide you through the system. You have to either remember the commands or carry the supplied wallet-sized cheat sheet with you. However, since the dangerous functions—ERASE and ERASE ALL—are the only 2 commands that involve pressing a combination of 2 buttons, you can always guess your way through the commands without losing your stored messages.

Caller ID/phone book
The AT&T 964 and 955 have the largest call memories I've come across in their category of phones. Each phone stores the last 200 incoming numbers from all 4 lines (both regular and Call Waiting) in the Caller ID log. These numbers can be transferred to the phone directory, which also has a capacity of 200.

Design and miscellaneous features
The 964 and the 955 have AT&T's usual conservative but stylish design. The buttons are a bit small (as are the description typefaces) but features are well positioned. And the 4-line, 16-character backlit LCD makes general operation quite easy.

Equipped with a full-duplex speakerphone, both models free you from worrying about your conversations getting clipped or cut off. Sound quality is excellent for both you and your caller. Both models also support auto-redial, automatic line selection (for incoming and outgoing calls), and data devices. If you connect a data device (such as a fax machine or modem), the ports for line 3 or line 4 should be used and can be customized so incoming calls do not interrupt connections. However, the manufacturer recommends the use of a fax switch.

Recommendation
The main selling points of AT&T's KSU-less telephones are their versatility and the long list of "big system" features built into each extension. The 964 telephones are perfect for smaller companies or growing companies that would rather avoid the cost of installing a PBX. Buy as many KSU-less phones as you need now and add more later. You can have as many as 12 extensions in all, in any combination of 964 and/or 955 phones.

What I Liked Best   What I Didn't Like
  • Very easy setup
  • Supports 4 phone lines
  • Can be expanded from 2 to 12 extensions
  • Professional-quality auto-attendant
  • Private voice mailboxes for each extension
  • Large memory for phone book and Caller ID log
  • Low price
 
  • Takes awhile to regain a line after a caller hangs up
  • No help prompts for remote access to voice mail

1All of the phone lines used with AT&T 964 and 955 phones must be analog. Also, due to frequency interference during data transmissions, DSL lines cannot be used with these phones.
2This same rule applies to the AT&T 955 phones.



 


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