Fonolo: Bypassing Those Persistent AutoAttendant Menus


fonolologocurrent150pxYou’ve got a problem with your Internet service but every time you call your Service Provider’s support line you have to branch out through their phone tree to get through to technical support via a series of voice menus that get repetitive quickly.

  1. What service are you calling about? 1 for Wireless, 2 for Home Phone, 3 for Cable TV, 4 for High Speed Internet
  2. What assistance are you seeking? 1 for Billing, 2 for Customer Service, 4 for Technical Support, etc.

Last week, to reach a technical support service I had to enter “9” four times to reach the particular service I required. And there was also the “anxiety” time spent listening to the introduction to each step.

What if you could just “call” the basic number but jump right to the level of response you are seeking?

That’s what Fonolo is about. It’s a “Deep Dialing” service that takes you directly to “Internet Technical Support” or airline arrival times or a company directory. Fonolo CEO Shai Berger explains it succinctly in this two minute video.

Fonolo’s service has been under development for over a year; they have now spidered the AutoAttendant or phone tree menus for over 200 companies. But they need your feedback so that they get the user interface right. They’ve opened up a limited participant public beta.

If you’re one of the first 100 Web Worker Daily readers to sign up via this link, you’ll have a chance to try it out and to provide your feedback, including suggestions for additional companies whose phone tree menus should be included. A fully open public beta will follow in a few weeks.

ebaydialbynameI’ve tested the service by calling up one of my Outlook contacts at eBay. At this time it’s a seamless “call back” service. I accessed eBay’s AutoAttendant menu via the Fonolo website, located “Dial By Name” within the menu and clicked on the related “Call” button.

The service then called my (previously registered) mobile phone and I found myself at eBay’s request to enter a contact’s last name to reach his/her extension.

Hint: when I called the eBay directory I realized that entering the letters of a person’s last name directly from a BlackBerry’s QWERTY keyboard would not map to the touch tones the AutoAttendant was seeking. It turns out there’s a simple solution on which I’ve reported at “Entering ‘Last Name’ from a BlackBerry”.

But, you say, why not access this service directly from a mobile smartphone? Fonolo’s iPhone application, which won the Judges’ Award at GigaOm’s recent Mobilize 08 conference, will become available on the iPhone App Store at the appropriate time. And I’m sure a BlackBerry application is on their development roadmap.

In addition to getting the user interface right, you may ask about the business model; suffice it to say that Shai and his team are also working on that aspect by building a premium service incorporating features that can benefit those 200 or more companies whose menus have been spidered to improve their own service quality.

Fonolo is developing a solution to an annoying caller pain point. It empowers the user by taking control of those long winded phone trees. But there are a few steps yet: get the User interface right, get the smartphone applications up, build up the database of company phone trees and develop the premium service and back office infrastructure for improving a business’s call center service quality levels.

Sign up for this limited beta and give your feedback directly to the Fonolo team. As for reaching my contact at eBay – it was successful and a time saver!


A. Acevedo

The timely common sense idea of “deep dialing” was obviously overlooked by many people until now, so it seems ingenious.

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