Fonolo navigates phone trees for you

A brilliant idea from the Great White North.

Published September 17, 2008 5:20PM (EDT)

Everyone hates phone trees. Press 1 for this, press 2 for that, speak some account number and so forth. They're meant to make the process of dealing with a company more efficient, but most of the time they're just frustrating as the system doesn't understand you half the time, and it would be 10 times faster just to deal with a human being. If you're like me, you've figured out that pressing zero a lot or asking for the operator tends to get you where you need to go more quickly.

But all of that may be changing soon as a new Canadian start-up is helping people get around these phone trees. On its Web site, Fonolo provides the text of the various levels of the phone tree. As it's text, you can quickly scan the various menu options before you get to the one you want. Then, you press a little button that says "Call Here" -- and presto, your computer will dial (via VoIP) that exact spot in the menu.

I haven't been able to evaluate the site yet for myself, as it is currently in private beta, meaning the company is only letting a small group of people test it. I called Fonolo's office to get an invitation (and yes, it does have a phone tree), and quickly managed to speak with Jason Bigue, one of the co-founders. He sent me an invite and I'll report back later in the day.

Some bloggers, though, have managed to check it out. One review wasn't that stellar, but was nonetheless hopeful:

Unfortunately, after testing a few companies, it was easy to see why the company is still in private beta -- the call quality was very poor. However, the company is aware of this and are working on this problem with their termination provider. The issue is due to the volume of calls -- more than they expected, apparently. But if they can get that problem fixed, this will be an invaluable service.

[via CBC Spark]

Update: I made three test calls, one to my cell phone and two to my home office landline. The cell call sounded great, but the other two made the other person on the other end of the line sound like they were calling from underwater and were totally unintelligible. Looks like Fonolo still has some work to do.

By Cyrus Farivar

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