When calling into an enterprise of any reasonable size, we all love to navigate our way through those pesky (and repetitive) enterprise auto-attendant services or phone trees that go through menu after menu to connect you directly to an appropriate destination service or person. NOT!
At last spring’s eComm 2008 we first learned about Fonolo, a “Deep Dialing” service that bypasses phone trees to connect you directly with the destination extension you really want to reach. I provided a detailed description of Fonolo, incorporating a video, on Web Worker Daily three weeks ago. While Fonolo has been in private beta for a few months, today it is launching a fully open public beta.
I asked Fonolo CEO Shai Berger, aside from the open public beta announcement, what have they learned from the private beta and what other experience have they gained during this period? His response:
- Fonolo has grown to provide Deep Dialing for over 300 companies from 150 six weeks ago.
- They are learning what is required to scale the service; it’s not the web portal that presents an issue but rather the scalability of the service itself where they need to be supporting several hundred concurrent calls over the phone network in real time. “Every call involves a “deep dial” which is processor intensive and uses voice recognition to make sure they get to the right place within an enterprise’s menu.”
- From the beta test experience, “We’ve learned that ‘Deep Dialing’ has tapped into a vein of consumer frustration. We get lots of fan mail! We’ve also learned that the companies people want to call are concentrated on a few verticals, in particular wireless providers and ISPs. We’re going to disclose our “top 10″ enterprise category list at some point in the future.”
- What are the goals for the open public beta? “Watch how the service scales with usage and watch usage patterns. This is particularly important in helping to determine the structure of premium services.”
But there’s more to the Fonolo story than simply “Deep Dialing”. With the data collected during the beta periods and the services they are considering, they will also be able to provide a service to call centers to assist them with improving their productivity. This would include providing data on where users get lost in a menu, hang up in frustration or end up at an inappropriate destination. Martin Geddes foresees potential for Fonolo as having more benefit for call centers than for consumers; check out Fonolo’s role in a discussion led by Martin at the recent Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm conference in London, U.K.
… [but] who benefits more: the consumer, or the call centre? We think that it’s the latter, and the consumer is the price-sensitive side. The call centre wants the maximum rate of self-care, high customer satisfaction, and the web site offers the ability to do all kinds of enhanced multi-modal interactions that a 0-9*# keypad can’t do well… Therefore in our two-sided market world, we’d get telcos to distribute and promote this tool (on their fixed, mobile and on-device portals). They would then sell these enhanced capabilities to call centres.”
At the recent Mobilize 08 Shai announced the Fonolo application for iPhone, to become available early in 2009; Fonolo was awarded the Judges Prize at this event’s LaunchPad segment. And, given the target user base, I’m sure they’ll be looking into putting a BlackBerry application on their roadmap.
Symantec is one of the recent additions to their enterprise directory. I could have used Fonolo a month ago when I was having an issue with upgrading a Norton security product and had to make multiple calls to the same support line to resolve the issue. A mouse click and getting a call-back would have been a lot simpler and less time consuming than pushing “9” four times – interspersed with tedious voice directions – to get to the appropriate service personnel. .(The good news is that the issue did get resolved.)
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