Shai berger CEO of Fonolo has replied to my questions.Please find the replies inline
Are u guys tried of going through different IVR menu options to reach the customer service representative? I’m sure many of the folks would agree with me how cumbersome and time consuming these IVR menu options is. It reminds me Citibank ad, which basically boasts of live customer interaction, cutting out those complicated IVR options. I guess the good news is that some of the folks at Fonolo are working hard to help overcome this mess. Fonolo's "Deep Dialing" feature enables a caller to skip those time-consuming touch-tone and IVR-driven menus and connect directly to a point inside a phone menu to reach the person or department he/she needs. Another cool feature of fonolo is- it keeps track of your calls, notes and recordings.
In fact, I did talk about these guys earlier in one of my article on pudding media. So how does this work-- fonolo does transcribes the phone menus of large companies to give users access to visually navigate the menus. By doing so, you can skip those phone menu’s and dive into the menu option that you are looking for.
According to fonolo website, here is what they have said about the technology behind it
“We’ve built revolutionary technology that "spiders" the phone system, much like a web search engine spiders the web. Our system dial companies, navigate their menus and use a combination of speech recognition, signal processing and human editing to maintain a map of “phone space”.
Every time a user requests a “Deep Dial”, we validate the entire path through the phone menu using this same technology. In real-time, we listen to audio from the call and use speech recognition to determine if it’s a match to the information we have stored in our database. Our approach of “node validation” ensures that we always route customers to exactly the right spot in a company’s phone menu.”
Interesting idea, still at its infancy. Here are some of my thoughts about this product:
• Availability of Phone numbers across different countries
[shai] We are focussing on US and Canada for now.
• In order to use the service, user may have to pay more for voice call’s.( Call is first connected to fonolo’s server, which in turn shall connect to the actual company)
[shai] The user will not pay more for calls. Fonolo works via callback method. That is, you select the point in the menu you want to call, then we call the company, navigate to that spot and call you back. So you end up with a (slightly shorter) inbound call instead of an outbound call.
• How big is the market segment for this? I mean, how frequently do u keep calling companies that run u through their IVE menus.
[shai] Judging from the response we've had so far, I'd say there is considerable desire out there for this service. I think it is a common point of pain.
• How will they monetize the service
[shai] Browsing the phone map, Deep Dialing and Intelligent Call History are free and ad-supported. Later on, we’ll add some premium features that require a monthly fee. We also have some interesting partnership plans in the works, but I can’t disclose any details here. Stay tuned!
• Not sure how they can traverse multi lingual IVR menu options
• IVR menu options keep changing; need to keep up with these changes.
[shai] We dial in repeatedly to validate the phone menu. Furthermore, every time you Deep Dial through Fonolo, you are helping us validate that particular menu path.
All that said, Wish Shai Berger a great success and hope to see fonolo come out a winner. (I have requested for an invite, will update with more details about the product. Stay tuned)