caveat: it’s a very amateur video I made in a rush (it even has the cell phone static, you’ll hear what I mean LOL) for the Under The Radar Conference (we were selected as a Grad. Circle company at their last mobile tech beauty pageant… hey, at least people laughed!)
Here are a few tips to make your Phonevite messages more recipient-friendly:
- Tell call recipients who you are and what organization you represent – Many a time, people assume that the recipient will recognize who the caller is, but that is not always the case, so it is good to let them know who’s calling and remove any doubt, just like when one leaves a message in a voice mail system. (e.g. “Hi, this is Pastor David Smith from City International Church”)
- Mention that they are hearing a pre-recorded message - Because the quality of the call is so clear, recipients sometimes think that it is someone calling them live and they will try to initiate a conversation. Consequently, they will likely be puzzled when the caller keeps talking (i.e. the message keeps playing as it should)… Because of this potential confusion, it is wise to let them know that the message is a recording and not a live call.
- Make your messages short and to the point – Just like when you leave a voicemail, try to not be too repetitive and unnecessarily long-winded. It is a good idea to write out the script and/or the main important points and read them as you record the message.
- Send the message via email too – There may be some people that cannot hear the whole message because they are in the middle of a chore when they answer the call. For such cases and for all recipients to be able to review the information in your message, at their convenience, we recommend you send the message via email too. The recipients will receive a link to a unique URL (web page) where they can play the recording like they would a YouTube video.
- Make recipients aware of the Opt-out Option – When sending a message to a large group (e.g. whole school, mega-church), it is always nice to let the recipients know that you respect their privacy and that they have an option to opt-out at the end of every call answered by a live person.
- Leave a number where they can reach you – Although your verified Caller ID appears on the screen, it is good courtesy to leave a phone number where the recipient of the message can reach you back. You can also use our RSVP and Message-back options to elicit responses from your recipients (e.g. “Please use the RSVP prompt at the end of this call to let me know if you can make it” or “Let me know what you can bring to the pot-luck tomorrow by leaving a response at the end of this call”.
“I hate those annoying robocalls” is what I read in the news and blogosphere quite often. There is an organization with the sole purpose of stopping them. From my Google research of the term “Robocall”, it is mostly used in the negative sense, as famously derided by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who, ironically, was criticizing her own campaign’s robocalls.
So, what do Phonevite and I think about them? Well, the answer is we agree and disagree.
If by Robocalls we are talking about unsolicited calls, without permission and/or prior existing relationship, soliciting a purchase, vote, order and/or donation, then we agree and wish that these type of calls be limited or done away with. In fact, our home page and Terms of Service explicitly spell out that we do not want Phonevite to be used for Telemarketing or Solicitations. Yes, there is a way for these types of calls to be made in a non-intrusive, legal way, to people who have opted-in and/or have an existing established relationship, but we do not have the legal expertise/resources or technical system, yet, to filter appropriately and provide our customers with a mechanism to send calls only to those pertinent parties. Because of such limitation, we’d rather issue a blanket prohibition and play it safe, than mar our reputation for respect of privacy, and also, because indiscrimate spamming, whether done over the phone, text or email, is annoying and intrusive.
If by Robocalls we are talking about any type of automated calling, voice broadcasting, autodialer and/or phone tree, that uses current and future technologies available to send pre-recorded messages to many parties at once, then we disagree, as strongly, with the position that such calls should be banned without discrimination. Ask the thousands of schools that use such systems to broadcast weather-related closing announcements to the parents, community organizations that send emergency alerts to the neighbors, the churches that connect with their congregations, the sports coaches letting the team know the game is cancelled because of rain, and the overwhelming majority will tell you of the many benefits of these systems. It is in these type of community-based alerts, notifications, reminders and invitations that Phonevite specializes. We understand that these systems could be abused by people with wrong intents, and that is why we have placed several safeguards (e.g. mandatory phone number verification, opt-out prompt at the end of every call, etc.) as well as a daily monitoring system for potential misuse of our service.
The dangers of abuse exist with any kind of communication system: email, voice or text. It would be ridiculous to ban the usage of the computer, phone and/or cell phone only because of their potential to be used abusively or because someone has already used the devices for spamming purposes. I hope we don’t chop the technological tree just because of a few rotten apples. It is better to prune those spoiled branches and to diligently watch and care for the growth of the whole tree.
Last month, I had the opportunity to introduce 17 Top Internet Telephony Services at the FETC 2009 conference in Orlando, FL. I started with the evolutionary history of Internet Telephony and, sort of chronologically, overviewed and showed some demos of PC-to-PC/PC-to-Phone services, IP Phones, UMS, Voice Broadcasting sites and Video Broadcasting tools.
The talk was, I thought, rather well received. I had to stay afterwards, for a while, discussing the many resources I presented with some of the educators who remained interested in the topic. Jeff May wrote a good outline of my presentation, along with others he attended (Thanks, Jeff, for taking notes and the good review). For those of you that might want to check the material that was covered, here are the slides (Thanks to our good friends at Docstoc for hosting the doc).
We certainly appreciate being mentioned in leading media outlets like BusinessWeek, US News, Discovery Educator Network & TechCrunch, but the posts we most enjoy are the ones from our users who demonstrate how Phonevite can be used in everyday life, to improve communications with our social networks. Here’s 2 recent examples of these:
Glenn Moses, an Assistant Principal and Teacher, through his own live example, describes how Phonevite is helping many teachers in their classroom.
Nathan Chase, a recent proud father, shows how Phonevite is perfect for announcing a new baby.
In addition, we receive many testimonials by email, including how Phonevite was instrumental in emergency evacuations, rescue missions and family updates during the horrible hurricanes last month. These stories definitely give us some additional adrenaline to keep going in these tough times for all.
With the demise of the VON Show, the Internet Telephony Conference & Expo (aka ITEXPO) is now regarded as the biggest and most eminent show in the VoIP industry. We planned to attend the EXPO this year because we thought that it was time for us to show our true colors, as they say, and let the industry know what we were doing with VoIP on the one-to-many calling front. Sure, there’s been a lot of innovation since VoIP made it mainstream in the late 90′s, and Kalvin (Co-Founder) and I (John, the other Co-Founder) were part of that early history with Dialpad (the most popular VoIP web service which was eventually acquired by Yahoo!), but we felt that most of the R&D has been going into one-to-one communications (e.g. Skype) and related value-added services, such as VoIP-PBX (e.g. RingCentral) solutions and Unified Messaging Platforms (e.g. GrandCentral, which, by the way, was created by our former colleagues from Dialpad, Craig and Vincent, which then was acquired by Google). By attending the ITEXPO, our intent was to make a statement to the industry; That VoIP could be exploited and leveraged for communications to groups, i.e. for one-to-many communications, an area that has not received much attention, both in the public arena or the development community.
I admit it. I’ve been horrible at blogging for months. Today, Vincent, one of our star engineers, brought to my attention the fact that we have some significant number of visitors to our blog page, and that they have been probably been disappointed by the lack of postings. For that, I apologize.
A lot has happened since we last posted. Some of the latest updates are that we successfully completed a Seed Round of funding. In fact, we were oversubscribed and, regretfully,we had to turn down some good investors. We also moved our headquarters to San Jose, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley, in order to attract a good talent pool and to be closer to the money in Sand Hill Road. We now have, in our team, a few star developers from some of the top web properties in the world, so we are pumping new products/features at a much faster speed.
In terms of products, we launched our Premium Service in February and released a better algorithm for voice mail/answering machine detection recently. We have cool applications planned for Facebook and OpenSocial, as well as some mobile applications.
Please let us know you are out there in the blogosphere. Drop us a line. Give us some suggestions. We welcome feedback, good or bad.
Will keep you posted.
John / Co-Founder