We're already phone-averse as it is (we're rabid call screeners and make an effort to stay off the phone as much as possible; talking in person or IM/email is our mode of communication of choice). But the absolute worst is being stuck in the purgatory known as automated phone menu systems, a cost cutting "solution" which often results in a touchtone labyrinth that could give Theseus headaches. Like the Greek hero, sometimes we need a "thread" to guide us through the maze, and that's where this new beta software, Fonolo, comes in...
[Creative Commons: mistress_f]
Fonolo in simplest terms is a visual navigation site which provides an image map through the maze of major phone menu systems, allowing you to place calls directly from their site specifically to the location in the menu system you need to get to. So instead of pressing 6 times to get to a directory, you'll only need to dial once, a feature called "deep dialing" (sounds naughty!). This is achieved in the same way search engines use spiders to extract data/links from online, but in this case, the target is phone menu systems. It's like being directly flown over your destination and parachuting in, instead of trekking by foot.
The service also allows you to build a call history which is accessible at later times, making repeat calls to that delinquent $3.27 bill creditor easier (actually, when people want your money, then these menu systems magically become easier to navigate; it's only when you need help that it becomes difficult). Fonolo's call history system allows for:
Automatic organization of all of your calls to a given company, regardless of which phone you used or which number was dialed.
Stores recordings of all the calls that you can review at any time or forward to someone by email.
Allows you to write text notes during a call that get stored with the history. You can later search and review those notes.
The Fonolo service is currently in beta, with open sign ups, and with hopes of providing the service as an iPhone App this year (come on, Apple!). We consider this a salvo back from the customer side and we're now smirking our way through automated phone systems. Take that, Ms. Robot Voice!