Monday, January 13, 2014

What are Outlook Phone Selectors and how can you use them?

By Vern Weitzman

What are Outlook Phone Selectors?

When I open an Outlook contact, sometimes there is just a single phone number visible, even though other numbers are available.  For example, there is a Business Phone number showing at the top, but the next two phone fields are empty; Home and Business Fax are empty.
Outlook Contact showing empty Phone Number fields.

Unfortunately, the average Outlook user is not aware that there are two more phone numbers on this contact.  
It is a small chore, but someone can use the selector drop-down and hunt for other numbers. They need to click the selector drop-down and choose a different phone field. Once the changes are displayed, the selector preferences are saved with the contact. The next time you open the contact, those selectors do get saved.
Outlook Phone Selector Drop-down
Unfortunately, this is not a global setting for all contacts. You have to perform this extra step for other contacts.
Selectors are optimized showing are no empty fields

It seems a little bit esoteric to blog about this. It might seem even less likely that we would spend engineering time on this annoyance. However, we had influential users complaining about missing phone numbers.  We can tell a user five times that their phone numbers are not appearing because this is how Microsoft designed Outlook.  We can also make five rational arguments about why this can’t be helped. Somehow, they will still ask a sixth time.
In the context of itrezzo Unified Contact Management, we decided to make Outlook phone selectors a bit more friendly. Our software now allows you to set a preferred ordering of selectors. This optimizes real estate on the contact form. Instead of having two empty fields, selectors are re-organized so only fields with phone numbers are displayed.

How do Phone Selectors work?

Even though there are only four phone numbers displayed on the Outlook Contact form, there are fourteen different Outlook phone fields and eight phone selectors. Each phone selector can specify any field name.
In the screen capture below, you can see the phone selectors by opening an Outlook Contact and clicking the All Fields button on the ribbon. In the first drop down, select All Contact Fields.
"All Fields" displaying Outlook Phone Selectors
For this specific example, we really want to place Business2 and Home2 much higher in the list (so it is in the top four selectors.)  

In the ideal world, we would automate the compaction of phone fields so that the four most important numbers are always shown, and blank fields are never shown (unless there are less than four numbers.)

With itrezzo Unified Contact Management, the selector optimization is automated to show users as many phone numbers as possible. This has a subtle improvement in productivity for Outlook users. If you would like to implement this, you will need the latest version of the itrezzo ECO platform. This setting is not exposed in the User Interface. Please contact itrezzo technical support to help you enable this feature.

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