Are you frustrated by the ubiquitous “phone tree” at major corporations? “Press 1 for customer service, 2 for sales, 3 for…” was bad enough. But with the advent of the mechanical voice, it’s only gotten worse as customers are now supposed to guess the magic words that will make “Emily” open up.
Fonolo solves that problem through “deep dialing”. Visit their web site, select the business you want to speak with and the department, and Fonolo will dial the call, navigate the menus and connect you directly with the person you need. CEO Shai Berger and I talked a couple of weeks ago about their latest release. It’s a complete redesign of the service, with new features and (gasp) a business model.
The user interface has been completely redesigned, beginning with the ability to deep dial without creating an account. Berger explained that demanding that users create an account had turned out to be a huge barrier. Now you simply visit Fonolo, search, and then click to dial. It’s Google for corporate phone trees. According to Berger, call volumes have been rapidly increasing as a result of this change.
Also in this second release, the Quick Tones feature is an Auto-Fill for the phone user interface. Just as modern browsers can automatically populate passwords and other fields on web forms, Fonolo’s Quick Tones feature can use DTMF tones to automatically enter ID numbers, credit card information, and other kinds of information commonly requested over the phone.
Fonolo now sports a smarter interface for making call recordings and takeing notes about the calls as well. In particular, users can add notes and flag points during the call, so that they can return to specific places in the recording at a later time. During large recordings, this kind of indexing capability is invaluable.
So how does the company plan to make money? It’s not by charging for the end user service. According to Berger, this service will be free indefinitely. They see an opportunity in improving the calling experience to large companies. Furthermore, it’s a lot easier to get their technology in front of people if it’s on the site that the user is navigating to, rather than a third party site such as Fonolo’s. Ergo, Fonolo has built a web component that is a miniature version of their existing service, which corporations can deploy on their own websites. It automatically synchronizes with the company’s existing phone menu, stays synchronized, and enables deep dialing instantly from their website.
The benefit? Happy customers, and lower costs because the customer connects to the right agent immediately. The business model is usage based. In theory, because customers are on the line and in the queue for shorter periods of time, corporations should save substantial money paying Fonolo rather than the local telco.
Berger believes this is disruptive because the technology can be deployed, immediately, without requiring any changes to the existing telecom equipment in an organization. Companies add the Fonolo widget to their website, and periodically Fonolo spiders the phone tree, leading immediately to lower costs and happier customers.
One area that’s lacking in their current offering is mobile. Except for a third party product on Android operating systems, Fonolo has no mobile offering. Fonolo recognizes that mobile might well be the most attractive application of all, and Berger assured me that “it’s on the roadmap”.
Next time you need to navigate the large phone tree of some anonymous MegaCorp, perhaps a visit to Fonolo.com might be the best place to start. I know I’ll certainly be doing that.