From the monthly archives: April 2010

Fonolo is nominated for a Webby Award in the “Web Services and Applications” category.

The LATimes says it is “the only award show for Internet sites that matters.”

I’m a bit late posting on this, because voting ends tomorrow. If you are a fan of Fonolo, please vote today by clicking here.


image  The Mobile Voice Conference starts tomorrow in San Francisco. Looks like an excellent line-up, so I encourage you to attend if you are interested in how speech recognition technology is impacting the way we interact with our mobile handsets.

That may seem like a overly narrow scope for a conference, but consider the following points (which I took from their site):

  1. The mobile phone has introduced many people to speech technology in a “friendly” opt-in environment, e.g., free directory assistance and voice control of the phone
  2. Mobile phones are not small PCs. Their small size and need for a hands-free option mandates a speech option.
  3. This paradigm shift in familiarity is creating new acceptance and confidence in user interface innovation that opens the door for more applications
  4. Contact centers will get more traffic from mobile phones, with expectations of similarly friendly speech interaction—will contact centers become multi-purpose “voice sites”?
  5. Advertising can finance some innovative applications and contact center upgrades, as advertisers realize that speech applications are more natural to the mobile phone than web surfing (and voice applications work on every phone)
  6. Speech recognition and other speech technologies demonstrably have crossed new thresholds of usability—technology is no longer the barrier.
  7. Variations on speech technology—audio search, speaker authentication, and others—add to the increasing impact speech technology will have on users.

It is point number 4 that interests me most, given Fonolo’s close connection with the world of contact centers (aka call centers).

I will be part of a panel Thursday afternoon titled simply "Innovative applications".


image The Emerging Communication Conference starts today, returning to San Francisco for its third year. The travel delays due to the Iceland volcano have taken a chomp out of the attendee list including organizer Lee Dryburgh, but the show is going on. I understand some speakers will be delivering their address via Skype. (how appropriate!)

Fonolo is back for the third year in a row to present. I will be speaking at 9:45am on Tuesday the 20th. Here is the talk description:

Customer Experience in the Call Center: Can the Leaks in the Pipeline be Fixed?

Every day, millions of people make calls to large companies – banks, airlines, cell phone carriers, etc. – to speak to a customer service representative. For consumers, these calls often amount to a dreaded chore as well as a considerable loss of time. For companies, these calls amount to billions of dollars added to annual operating costs. Given the sheer volumes of time, money and energy spent on these customer service calls, improvements to their efficiency – even small ones – carry the potential to deliver significant results. Flaws in the way these calls are handled increase costs to companies in at least two ways: the higher expense associated with longer calls, and the loss of goodwill from customers.

In 2008, Fonolo launched a service for consumers with the goal of learning more about how some of the shortcomings in the call center experience could be addressed. Fonolo’s technology platform performs navigation on behalf of callers dialing a corporate phone system, connecting them directly to the person or department they need. To make this possible, the company maintains a database of over 500 companies. For each company, the content, structure and usage of its phone menu (IVR) are tracked.

As a byproduct of this traffic, the company has accumulated a unique perspective about what it calls the "pipeline" that exists between a caller and the call center agent. This presentation draws on that traffic data, as feedback from Fonolo users and other industry sources, to identify trends in technology, caller expectations and customer experience.

I will post slides and video as soon as I can.


I have fallen a bit behind in keeping up with Fonolo press coverage.  We’ve had some terrific articles written about us lately. In particular, it’s great to see that the press from the call center world is taking notice and talking about our enterprise product.

Customer Management IQ: Gen-Y expects quick and agile interactions

Blake Landau writes:

…As consumers, we come to begrudgingly accept [IVR systems (interactive voice response)] as a fact of life.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If the customer service department would look at some of the next generation technologies available today, like those that make the most of web and smart phone user interfaces, their customers would have a much different experience — [with a] faster connection to a real human and without the IVR frustration…

Gen Y’ers expect their customer service encounters to mirror the speed, agility and simplicity of their smart phones, iPods and flat screens. But so far the call center industry has failed to do so.

Fonolo [turns] turns any phone menu into a visual interface. This allows customers to navigate phone menus in a more natural way—visually from their browser or mobile application screen. The paradigm here is that callers, like visitors to a standard or mobile web page, get to click or tap on the box that best represents what they need. From there, the Fonolo application connects them directly to the agent that can best serve them.

Read more. Contact center flaws result in "aggravated customers"

Erik Linask writes:

[Fonolo's] basic premise… is that contact centers are fundamentally flawed because most do not leverage technology effectively to create a simple interactive process for customers, resulting in longer calls, more calls, multiple transfers between agents –- all of which results in aggravated customers and cost the company money.

… Fonolo develops a visual representation of the phone menu, which allows customers to quickly navigate their routes through an IVR system — without having to wait for countless menu options — and then click on the most appropriate menu option to immediately reach the agent that is most likely able to respond to their needs.

By leveraging telephony automation and cloud-based communications, [Fonolo] believes the time to resolution can be significantly reduced, resulting in considerable increases in customer satisfaction while reducing operating costs…

Companies like Fonolo understand how to integrate the latest technology trends with traditional support mechanisms to optimize the customer experience.

Read more.

Inside CTI: Fonolo can bridge the gap between the "tired" voice interface and today’s web-centric world

Eugene Liu writes:

[Here's] ultimately what Fonolo aims to do. For customers, allowing them to reach a company’s service representative easily, away from the tired voice interface. For enterprises, allowing them to leverage existing contact center infrastructure but provide an additional channel of customer interaction.

…implementation… [takes only] a Web widget embedded on the company site….[and]… absolutely nothing has to be changed to the existing infrastructure. The PBX is left alone, the IVR remains untouched, and the CTI system requires no tweaks. Calls continue to arrive to the agents — screen-pops and all.

By presenting a visual interface Fonolo cuts down on mis-navigation and could save a company a big chunk of cash. Happy callers? How about happy contact center managers, too.

Enterprises should take an honest look at themselves to see if they are doing their best to provide the most efficient method of customer service in today’s Web-centric world. Fonolo can be the bridge to that gap.

Read more.


image A few months ago we got word that Fonolo was accepted to speak at the prestigious Under the Radar event. I was excited of course, since I knew how highly that event was regarded. Now that we are less than a week away and I see the caliber  of presenters and judges, I am very fired up.

Fonolo will be part of the “Communication” track which will also include AwayFind, CubeTree and SendGrid. Judging our presentations will be

Presenting companies only get 6 minutes so it takes real discipline to deliver the most powerful points in your message. It certainly makes you focus on what’s most important!