By combining the personal touch of voice calls with the real-time analytics of Web applications, a telecoms startup hopes to make chatting on the phone more common, and more profitable.
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One of the tragedies of online commerce is that we’ve lost many of the benefits that voice communications bring. But real-time analytics capabilities can bring voice call back in vogue. That was the rationale of the founders of Iovox, which aims to get people doing business over the phone more often. According to the company, its technology marries the trust humans have for voice communications with the accountability of the Web.
“Telecoms hasn’t evolved as quickly as IT, but it’s still the most popular form of communication,” said Iovox founder Ryan Gallagher. “At the moment, though, telecoms is at the stage the Internet was in just before Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web.”
The rationale behind Iovox was to create a platform on which telephony applications can be easily created and carry as much information and performance metrics as any online transaction. Since all calls are digitised, said Gallagher, it’s logical to tag them with all the metadata that makes online business so quantifiable.
The portal and development platform Iovox took three years to create uses a combination of PHP, Java and Flash. Users can create voice applications through the API or an online portal. Call flows -- as simple or complicated as the user wants -- are created using a flow chart. Then additional features, such as call recording, missed call and email alerts, are bolted on as needed. The tool then shows the users real-time analytics that allow them to analyse and optimise their business offerings.
Telecoms watcher Rob Bamforth, principal analyst for research company Quocirca, likens Iovox to a telecoms version of interstitials. Just as, on the web, interstitials intercept every web search and insert content from an ad server, Iovox has found a way to direct every phone call that takes place, through allocation of unique numbers to each client.
Iovox describes what it does as voice as a service, but telecoms watcher Rob Bamforth, principal analyst for research company Quocirca, believes that does not summarise its function. “It’s more like a sort of voice analytics service,” he said. The challenge Iovox might have is in selling a system that is multi faceted. “I think it’s something people get or they don’t,” said Bamforth.
This was the case when Iovox engaged its first client, ecommerce vendor Live Bookings. The company was successful in online reservations, but wanted to expand its market to telephone bookings, where 90% of restaurant reservations are made.
“We figured we needed to find a way to bring some of those phone bookings through our system in order to grow our market,” said Live Bookings' chief operating officer David Norris. Iovox developed software that interfaced with Live Bookings’ system’s API to enable customers to book restaurants over the phone, using an automated system that interfaces with its Web commerce system.
Meanwhile, another beta developer, News International, used Iovox to create a phone system that recognised whenever any of its clients responded to one of the adverts in its papers. This enabled News International to sell adverts in its papers on a commission-only basis, so advertisers pay no upfront fee and are only charged for each call their advert generates, said Bamforth.
“The Web is full of opportunities for individuals to create services and businesses and monetise ideas with a global distribution channel,” said Gallagher. “It’s like the early days of online commerce, only easier.”
-- Nick Booth is an independent industry analyst. He started working in IT, networking and telecoms in the days when even the visionaries couldn’t see the Year 2000 coming.