How to screen or monitor phone calls using your PC     

Most of us don’t want to be available via our phones all the time, but generally we like to be contactable if we are really needed. There are calls we would like to take and others that we know we can deal with later. Which are the calls we want to take? It depends on who the caller is and what they want to talk about.

So, we have a call coming in. Who is it from? Most phone systems can sometimes tell us who, but often the caller id is blocked, and sometimes we won’t know the person despite being able to see their name. Even if the caller shows, many phones are shared, so we may know which family for instance, but not which member of that family is calling (e.g. it could be your girlfriend, or it could be her Mum). So maybe we know who the caller is and maybe we don’t.

What is this incoming call about? Even if the caller is someone we know, it may be inconvenient to take a call at the moment unless the call is urgent. If the caller is someone we don’t know, they may be calling about something important so the call may be worth taking. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing without allowing them to tell us.

Voice mail is a partial solution, but has the drawback of being “all or nothing”. Most voice mail systems, while more reliable than traditional answering machines, are less useful in that they don’t allow you to pick up the call if the caller’s message needs immediate attention or if you simply do not answer the phone in time.

An answering machine is better, but mechanical answering machines can be fiddly and unreliable. They also offer no way of getting messages to you if you are away from your phone, they cannot be used with PC-based (VoIP) phone systems and are not suited to business environments.

The steps below show you how to set up call screening and monitoring on your PC, so that you can see who the call is from, optionally divert them to a software-based answering machine, then listen to their message and pick up the call if desired. If you are away from your PC, a message is taken and forwarded to your mobile phone. You have the option to call the person back from your phone after hearing the message. (These steps assume you have Outlook installed – see Skylook prerequisites for details).

1. If you don’t already use Skype, download and install it from here. If you don’t already have a headset or a Skype Phone you will need to purchase one from your local distributor, or you can order one in our store.

2. If you want to receive calls from normal phones, you need to purchase a “SkypeIn” number from Skype. Otherwise, you can still screen PC-to-PC calls using these steps.

3. If you don’t already have Skylook, download and install it from here.

4. Start Outlook. If you are running Skylook for the first time, you will see the Skylook licensing wizard and the Skylook Welcome wizard. Some of the pages in the Skylook Welcome wizard prompt you to set up the “Skylook Answering Machine”. Just accept the default settings as shown below:
Skype Answering machine configuration

Skype Answering Machine Configuration 2

Skype Answering Machine configuration 3

4. After the wizard pages above, you will see the “Alerts” page. Fill this in as shown (using your mobile phone number instead of the one shown):
Forward Voice Mail to Phone

5. Complete the rest of the startup wizard.

6. If you are not running Skylook for the first time, the startup wizard won’t appear. Check that the Skylook Answering Machine is configured correctly by clicking “Tools | Configure Answering Machine…” from the Skylook toolbar:
Configure Skype Answering Machine

Also, click this button:
Alerts

and check that the options are set as follows (using your mobile phone number instead of the one shown):
Call Screening Option

7. When a call comes in (from a standard phone using SkypeIn, or from another PC using Skype-to-Skype), the Skylook toolbar tells you the name or number of the caller and presents you with options for how the call is to be handled:
Answer Call Button

Divert to Answering Machine

Hang Up Call Button

8. Click the second button above to have the answering machine answer the incoming call, or wait for the answering machine to answer it automatically. As the greeting is being played the following options are available:
Answering Machine Greeting

Once the greeting has finished playing, the following options are available:
Answering Machine Recording Message

If the caller leaves a message, you will be able to hear it through your headset or Skype phone. You can choose to pick up the call at any point.

9. When you are away from your PC, messages such as the one above will be forwarded to your mobile phone via Skype.

Note: Skype is free for PC to PC calls, but to call traditional phones there is a fee. It’s cheap, but not free! You will need to purchase some Skype Credit in order to have voice messages forwarded to your phone. You can

buy Skype Credit here. If you’re doing this for the first time, just buy the minimum amount so you can give it a try without too much of an outlay. (Please note that there are exceptions – sometimes Skype runs promotional offers that allow you to call phones for free).

To try message forwarding, first set your Skype status to “Away” by clicking the bottom left hand corner of the Skype application as shown below, so that Skylook thinks you are away from your PC:
Switch to Away Status

10. When a call comes in, let the answering machine answer the call and take a message. After a few seconds, you should receive a call on the phone number you entered above. The message will be played to you, and you will be given the option to call back by pressing “1″ on your phone.

11. Once you’ve finished trying this, don’t forget to set your Skype status back to “Online”. By default, Skype switches your status to “Away” automatically if your computer is left idle for more than five minutes. (Note: You may wonder what happens with calls that come in during the five minute gap – don’t worry, Skylook forwards these calls also, as soon as Skype switches your status to “Away”).
If you need additional help, contact us for assistance.