Fonolo is google for phone menus

April 30th, 2008

Remember when finding information on the Web was done by navigation using Gopher or Yahoo’s directory? I worked and we thought it was pretty good, at least until the search engines came along. Then we realized that search was much better than navigation for most tasks, especially as the size of the Web grew.

Recall how we get information from a big organization by phone today — we call customer service and navigate a confusing phone menu over the phone and after 10 minutes, end up being told to dial a different department. Dealing with such IVR (Interactive voice response) systems is part of the cost of living in our modern society. But maybe w can do better…

Fonolo offers a service that uses a search engine on their site to find the right spot on a company’s phone menu and connect you to it by a callback to your phone. You can even bookmark the point on the phone menu.

How do they do this? Here’s an explanation from IVR search: a ‘Google’ for phone menus?, a post on Telco2.0:

“And Fonolo wrote a web spider that visits large companies’ public phone numbers, and iterates through all the options on all the IVR menus from all the numbers, logging everything it finds. Then it’s just a matter of plotting it all on a directed graph, and making the whole thing searchable and available on the Web. And then the bit we like. You click on the bit you want to get through to, and their system uses the map to dial and navigate the IVRs for you, thus “deep dialing” the user directly to the point in the IVR they need. Every time someone dials through Fonolo, they use the interaction to re-validate that path through the IVR. The search terms that users submit tell them which companies they need to go spider.”

Fonolo is in a private beta mode, but you can sign up to be added to it on thei web site. You can see a video presentation of the idea and some ppt slides