It's definitely not your grandfather's VoIP service. Fonolo, which entered a public beta testing phase last week, is designed to do one thing: cut down on the time and frustration involved in contacting large, complex organizations over the phone.
For the past eight months or so, Fonolobrainchild of Shai Berger and Jason Bigue, two veterans of open-source software developmenthas been mapping out the voice menus of large corporate organizations. The database currently includes more than 300 North American airlines, banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, and the like.
"Two of Fonolo's most popular categories are travel and consumer electronics," said CEO Shai Berger, "so we expect a great deal of activity during the coming month."
To use the service, you go to the Fonolo website, log in, and select the company you're about to contact by searching the directory. Fonolo then displays the complete menu tree (see image). Find and click the link that you need, and Fonolo dials both the company and your phone to complete the call in one stepinstead of a lengthy sequence of "press one for this; press two for that."
Fonolo calls this Deep Dialing.
And since dealing with the airline, insurance company, etc. often involves multiple calls, Fonolo also provides an archive for each user that keeps a record of 'My Companies,' as well as an 'Intelligent Call History'a record of all calls made, together with any notes you care to include.
Together these features make up what is certainly a new model for Web-based telephony services. (Speaking of models, it is not yet clear what the business model for Fonolo will be: It is currently free "for the duration of the beta period.") While it won't make the task go away altogether, Fonolo promises to make the experience of calling corporate behemoths almost straightforward.
"The overwhelming response [we've gotten during the private beta period] tells me that we're addressing a pain point felt deeply by a wide range of people," said Berger.