By RACHEL MILLER, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 18 June 1999 12:00AM
This is an internet freephone service available at the click of a mouse.
It’s an icon that customers can click on corporate websites if they want
to speak to someone from the company. Users can request an instant call
back or they can specify a delay and a number to be called back on,
including mobile numbers.
The PhoneMe button is useful for closing e-commerce sales and also
supports helpdesks and customer relationship services. It’s already
being used by companies such as the AA, Compaq, Dell, the Financial
Times, NatWest and others who have the call-centre capability to handle
the demand. PhoneMe works in 260 countries and claims to offer extremely
competitive call charges. You can give it a try at www.phoneme.net.
PROS: PhoneMe provides a prompt and human service to customers who could
easily stray elsewhere on the internet.
CONS: Many people only have one phone line and could not take a call
until they were off line.
Interactive voice response (IVR)
It sometimes seems as if we spend more time on the telephone talking to
machines than we do to human beings. However, research from NOP shows
that, where appropriate, consumers welcome the speed and convenience of
an automated service. IVR is beneficial when the nature of the calls
coming in are specific, such as a brochure request. It can also be used
to cover busy periods, including the huge peaks of calls after a DRTV
ad. Using an automated service also ensures consistency, and services
can be an extension of a TV commercial in style.
In many cases, the smart move is to integrate an automated service with
live operators. Often, the majority of callers want the same basic
information and that can be provided quickly and accurately via an
Customers with other queries can then select a live agent.
PROS: IVR is good at providing a response during peak calling times; it
can also handle certain requests quickly and efficiently; it can be used
in conjunction with live agents to provide a full service.
CONS: Callers may have a query that is not covered by the automated
service; some callers dislike dealing with a machine and prefer to speak
to a person.
PhoneSites Hot Buttons
Phone boxes are a relatively new advertising medium - new for
respectable advertisers, at least - and PhoneSites offers space in
96,000 boxes across the UK. Now the company has launched Hot Buttons,
which means the consumer can see the advert and then call the advertiser
by pressing one button.
The target market for Hot Buttons is young people. Seventy three per
cent of 16- to 24-year-olds use payphones every month and spend more
than six minutes in the phone box at a time. They are already taking a
good look at both A4 and A2 ads positioned inches from their noses.
Now, 41,000 call boxes that have the necessary technology allow them to
call up the advertiser at the touch of a button. And advertisers can
select phone boxes that are situated close to appropriate retailers.
Potential users of Hot Buttons include mortgage providers, who could use
phone boxes close to estate agents, or telephone banking companies, who
might target boxes near high street banks.
PROS: There’s no delay between the call to action and the opportunity to
respond. Phone boxes offer widespread coverage and many are positioned
CONS: Consumers have to pay to call the advertiser and will expect real
Computer telephony integration (CTI)
At its simplest, CTI enables phone operators to know which number a
customer has dialled, which in turn indicates why they may be calling.
The caller could be responding to an ad, calling a complaints line or
requesting a brochure.
The next step is DDI (direct dialling inward) and it means that
call-centre staff can identify who’s calling before the call is
connected. The computer matches the number of the caller to their
customer record and when the operator picks up the call, they have the
caller’s details on screen and can greet them by name.
PROS: CTI allows operators to provide a prompt and personalised
Callers do not have to waste time giving details about themselves.
CONS: Hearing ’Good morning, Mrs Jones’, as soon as your call has been
answered can be disturbing and smacks of Big Brother. Also, it only
works if customers call from their home phone.
A predictive dialling system makes multiple outbound calls from a call
centre, but only delivers calls to agents when the customer answers.
When the system gets through to a customer, it transfers the call to an
agent, who is alerted by a beep in their ear and the appearance of the
relevant details on-screen. Predictive dialling systems come with a
’volume control’ so that they match the pace of the operators. It is
claimed that predictive dialling increases agent productivity
PROS: Predictive dialling cuts out wasted calls to answering machines,
engaged signals and fax machines. It improves call-centre efficiency by
providing agents with a constant flow of calls.
CONS: Agents get no time to psych themselves up for the call. The system
hangs up on a customer if there is no agent free to talk to them.
Call-centre staff have to work extremely intensively.
A new service from BT will give companies the opportunity to advertise
on the telephone. BT Freetime gives free calls to consumers who are
prepared to have their calls interrupted every two minutes by ten
seconds of commercials and to limit their total call time to ten
minutes. Customers complete lifestyle questionnaires to help advertisers
target them accurately.
Aimed at students and lower income households, trials have started in
Tyne & Wear and Bristol, and BT Freetime should go nationwide by the end
of this year. A rival service, Free2Talk from Freedom Telecom, is due to
PROS: Advertisers can reach targeted audiences with great frequency.
Callers may feel warm towards advertisers because they have indirectly
enabled them to make free telephone calls.
The service may be used heavily because of the free calls and the
CONS: Callers may begin to resent the companies whose commercials
interrupt their calls.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk