Fonolo.com Slash And Burns Dread Phone Trees

Fonolo.com promises to be an industrial-powered buzzsaw for hacking down phone trees. They’ve spidered companies’ entire customer service phone trees and you just click on a chart online where you want to go. Fonolo calls the company for you, navigates to that point, and calls you on your phone when the call is ready. Boom, you’re transferred right in without waiting or wanting to kill yourself. It’s also free. Good news for Vincent Ferrari wannabes, a forthcoming feature will let you record calls and publish them online at the click of a button. Currently in closed beta, you can enter your email address on their front page and they’ll let you know when it’s ready. Screenshots inside…

GALLERY



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Fonolo [Official Site]

Comments

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  1. Ein2015 says:

    This looks like a VERY useful tool… any word on if it’s free or what fees will be charged?

  2. Nick1693 says:

    Thank you!!!

  3. bologna_wallet says:

    Imagine all the postings to this site once they implement recordable calls…

  4. SkokieGuy says:

    Wow, can’t wait! To me the ability to easily record and have digital access to the files is huge.

    Companies with irresponsible, deceptive or outright lying CSR, begin trembling with fear!

  5. ianmac47 says:

    Shouldn’t we address the cause, rather than the symptom?

  6. camman68 says:

    @Ein2015: According to the front page of their website, it’s free.

  7. camman68 says:

    @ianmac47: Good Luck with that. Let me know how it works out for ya.

    Just Kidding – I agree. But it’s nice to have other options until we have found/fixed the root cause.

  8. Darrone says:

    @SkokieGuy: You still have to inform them your recording the call, correct? Or does the CSR telling you their recording it cover that? hmmm.

  9. jamesdenver says:

    wow. very cool. even if the recordings are for your own personal use and reference that’s an incredible tool.

  10. PunditGuy says:

    @Darrone: IANAL. Rules vary from state to state. I know that in Iowa, as long as you’re a party to the conversation, you can record it without informing anyone else on the call.

    You can go here for a summary from each state: [www.rcfp.org] I have no idea whether they’ve kept it up to date; the copyright says 2003, so use at your own risk.

  11. snoop-blog says:

    This site alone should provide some good posts to read!

  12. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Sounds tempting, but I’m a little wary. All it takes is one unscrupulous employee to take advantage of this data. I’m not just talking phone numbers either… many companies (credit card, cable, and cell phone companies, for example) require the customer to enter their account number before being allowed the privilege of talking with a live human. How can they guarantee your accounts won’t be tampered with? And if it is, will using such a service negate your protections from credit card fraud?

    I’ll pass and just keep using my speakerphone.

  13. redragon104 says:

    @Darrone: Depends on the state:
    Most states and federal law only outlaws tapping phone calls when both people are unaware. When one person knows, i.e. you, its usually not illegal.

  14. SkokieGuy says:

    @Darrone: I live in a two party consent state.

    When you call any customer service, they do not obtain my consent, the fact that I don’t hang up after hearing the announcement ‘calls may be recorded’ is apparently my assumed consent.

    Without being a lawyer, it seems that a reasonable person would assume that the CSR has given consent, since every call they receive ‘may be recorded’.

    I would expect that this site may include some sort of state by state guideline on recording calls.

  15. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    I had an interesting call once with a credit card company. They gave me the standard “your call may be recorded to improve quality control”. So when the CSR came online, I just flippingly said, “By the way I’m also recording this call to improve my quality control.” And she got all nervous. “Uhh..I don’t think you can do that.” And then I said, “So you can record the call but I can’t.” And then she said, “Well let me talk to my supervisor.” And then 2 minutes later the line went dead. I think it was Amex.

  16. Okay, everybody. Get a pen ready, and write this down.

    http://WWW.GETHUMAN.COM

    Remember that address. it lists almost EVERY company, with their phone number, and what sequence you have to hit to GET A HUMAN.

    I’ve been using this site for years. I’d rather do it myself. Besides, it also gives you EVERY phone number you’ll need (save for the EECB numbers you will find here on consumerist)

    And, it’s free too.

  17. Yeah there was a great article here once that actually listed (or linked to a list) of each state, and whether it was one party, or two party notification.

    I live in Oregon which is a 1 party notification state, and I have a little device that pipes audio from my phone line into my laptops MIC jack, and then I just record WAV files of my conversations with difficult companies.

  18. suprfli says:

    Great post! As a side note, shouldn’t the headline read, “Fonolo.com Slash and Burns Dreaded Phone Tress”? I had to read that title a few times until I realized what was meant.

  19. SkokieGuy says:

    @TakingItSeriously: What is the device called? Where did you get, and are you using it with a traditional land line / VOIP / cell phone?

  20. Xerloq says:

    Get ready for CAPTCHA’s on phone trees now…

  21. Macroy says:

    @ianmac47: Dr. Horrible?

  22. mike says:

    @johnfrombrooklyn: That’s kind of surprising. I would think that it would be okay to record, especially if you’re recording to quality control, which is true. You want to make sure you receive quality service.

  23. jamesdenver says:

    @SkokieGuy:

    re: connection

    I checked out the site, and it looks like you enter YOUR number and it quickly dials you back – placing you at the proper “branch” of the tree.

    I was wondering that too.

  24. robdew2 says:

    Unfortunately the only thing I hate worse than phone trees is having to create an account for a service where there is clearly no need.

  25. mike says:

    @robdew2: That is why there is BugMeNot.

  26. StellaSquash says:

    In theory it’s a terrific idea. I’m not overly excited to have a third party record and keep hold of my conversations that include me giving out important information.

    BTW, how do you record your own calls from landline phones? Just a recorder with the phone line routed through it?

  27. Invective says:

    First thing I do when I see a ‘great new website’ is look up who owns the damn thing. In this case:
    Whois info for, fonolo.com:

    Registrant:
    MrHost
    8623 Granville St.
    Suite 322
    Vancouver, BC V6P5A2
    CA

    Domain name: FONOLO.COM

    Administrative Contact:
    Administration, Network domains@mrhost.ca
    8623 Granville St.
    Suite 322
    Vancouver, BC V6P5A2
    CA
    +1.6046013367
    Technical Contact:
    Administration, Network domains@mrhost.ca
    688 Richmond St. W.
    Suite 204
    Toronto, ON M6J 1C5
    CA
    +1.4164566459

    You too can go see who owns a website and probably should of course. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not. Untangling a website can take a while to do. Lately a plethora of scams have come out of Canada. That being said, I have *NO* idea if fonolo.com is, or is not a scam. However I personally have had a lot of problems with Canadian companies falling short on support. For example Euro-pro took me big time by trading one brand new product and replacing it with an older broke down model. After a year, they never would make things right. There have been so many complaints about Euro-pro, that they now market new products under new names. Names like the ‘Shark’ line of products. Anyway, I digress…

    I forget what the statistic is for Canada, but they do ‘phish and pharm’ user information like no other. So I’d say buyer beware here. In this case you are buying a service with your personal information and your personal information may hold a lot more value than you thought. Yeah? ;)

    It’s probably been said before, but to check a website, you can go to places like Verisign.com and search the name. That will generally tell you – who the ISP is for the website. From there you can see who is registered as the owner. A lot of times these days the owner information is restricted and when that occurs, unless I’m positive the website is genuine and usable, I stay away. I always want to know who I am dealing with. Take Consumerist.com for example. ;) …

  28. a forthcoming feature will let you record calls and publish them online at the click of a button

    I can’t wait for “Consumerst: The Podcast Edition”!

  29. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Here’s a link to a site with the information about recoding phone calls: [www.rcfp.org]

  30. Skipweasel says:

    @Darrone: In the UK the standard wording seems to be “Calls may be recorded for security and training purposes”. I choose to take that to mean that I may record them – after all, it’s just said “Calls may be recorded.”

    What are US disclaimer messages like?

  31. @Skipweasel: Here, they typically say “Calls may be recorded for training purposes”, but I always took the “may” not to be permissive of recording, but to be a disclaimer that it might possibly be recorded on their side.

  32. jamesdenver says:

    If you don’t plan on going to court with it who cares if its legal or not?

    I DO like the feature though of playing a recording BACK to another CSR on a different call. That could be powerful

  33. synergy says:

    @suprfli: I think it should be “fonolo.com Slashes and Burns Dreaded Phone Trees”

  34. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @suprfli: Comments regarding grammar are best aimed at the post’s editor via email. We do not allow grammatical nitpicking in posts; nobody wants to read it and it is, fundamentally, off topic.

    synergy, you too.

  35. pashdown says:

    How about a service which hires Indians to wait on hold for other Indians in customer support, then they transfer the call to you when you actually get someone who can help you with your problem? This could double the employment in India overnight!

  36. dragonfire1481 says:

    As a former call center rep, let clarify a few things:

    1) Laws DO very by state on whether or not you have to inform the rep that you are recording them.

    2) I don’t know how it works at other centers, but at mine we were told to NEVER EVER consent to a recording if a customer asked our permission to one. We were supposed to immediately escalate to a supervisor, who if necessary would also refuse the recording and then hang up.

    3) “May be recorded for quality or training purposes” means just that. The call MIGHT be recorded and might not. I’d say that less than 5% of my calls actually DID get recorded by QA, most aren’t.

    And MOST IMPORTANTLY:

    4) We are trained and directed to NOT ACCEPT IN ANY WAY an alleged phone call between a customer and our company. In other words, if you are speaking to me and say someone else at the company promised you something I have no record of and you play a recording you made as evidence to back up your claim, I AM NOT TO HONOR IT IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. The logic we were given was the customers could make their own recordings to try and scam our company and there was no way for us to prove the recording they had was actually 100% legit. I highly suspect this rule applies at most call centers.

    So don’t go thinking this new service is going to be some sort of customer service silver bullet that will make it easier for you to get companies to honor their promises to you.

  37. elvisaintdead says:

    @ianmac47:
    Shouldn’t we address the cause, rather than the symptom?

    Easy there, Dr. Frankenfurter, let’s take the good where we can find it……….

  38. EmperorOfCanada says:

    @dragonfire1482 Personally, wrong or right, I would just record you without your permission then. As to if if would actually do any good, well the company can believe it is fake all it wants, but likely all the friends and family you play the recording to will believe it. Likely will the media.

    @invective What can i say.. we arent as bad as Nigerians :p

  39. ibored says:

    @dragon fire…

    1)Laws do vary state by state, but the concept of consent doesn’t. May doesn’t mean MIGHT here…it means you are reserving the right to, whether or not you DO record the call is not only irrelevant, but it is an unknown by the customer who is operating on the concept that the call is being recorded. By saying/playing that message, you are consenting to the call being recorded, that means recorded by both parties (not just your end). By hearing that message and staying on the line, the person on the other end has also consented, thats why your allowed to record even in two party states. You the rep are also informed by the recorded message being played from your end of the telephone circuit. I am not a lawyer (yet…) but I learned this during a small claims court battle with a local dealership. The stealership tried this because I recorded the calls and the judge gave the above explanation (much more eloqueently than me BTW)

    2)see answer 1, we don’t have to tell you. I also doubt it would look good in court if somebody had both your consent to record message and your refusal to be recorded on tape…implies bad faith and a lack of credibility.

    3)see answer 1 may vs. might is irrelevant because may also means you reserve the right to, we don’t know whether you are or aren’t

    4) While that likely is your policy, the courts will laugh at you. it is also the policy of a company with extremely poor customer service. It also makes it unlikely that you will have any credibility in a court of law if what you tell people is not considered trustworthy under your own policies. That policy has nothing to do with customers being untrustworthy it simply has to do with interfering with them. It is worth noting that that willfull interference (and this would most definitely count) would fall under a perfectly valid reason for expanding punitive damages.

  40. dragonfire1481 says:

    @ibored:

    WE as reps DO NOT hear the recording customers do about “your may be recorded for quality purposes” as employees of the call center we automatically consent to potential recording BY OUR QA department, but in disclosure states, the customer IS STILL REQUIRED to inform us we are being recorded BY THEM. If they do not, then there is no consent on our part and any recording will not be legally permissible in a court.

    Also, if an audio recording was used to prove a case in court, it would have to be examined for evidence of forgery, but even if the recording shows no evidence of technical manipulation (for example, sound elements added in AFTER the original recording was made), it’s still possible that two people could make a legitimate sounding recording of a customer service call with little difficulty.

    What that means is there will be no way to prove the recording is legitimate or not and therefore it won’t necessarily stand up well in court.

    My post was not meant to reflect that I agreed with our policies in any way, I just wanted to let people know what phone reps are told in relation to being recorded.

    Also many companies you will be calling for over the phone CS (credit card, cable companies, cell phones) have you locked into arbitration via a contract, so any dispute you have will not see a court room, unless of course you file in small claims.

    I know that arbitration is slowly changing, but as of right now, it’s still the rule the majority of the time.

  41. bonzombiekitty says:

    @dragonfire1481: In a civil case (which is probably what a case would be), the recording would almost certainly hold up unless you can get proof the recording was faked. In a criminal case, the standards of proof are much higher and there’s more leeway to question the validity of the recording; in civil courts it’s just a preponderance of evidence. But I don’t really blame companies for not trusting recordings made by their customers.

  42. dragonvpm says:

    @dragonfire1481: I did some poking around and I came across this:

    California Recording Law (they have info for the other 11 states that have some form of 2 party consent, but California seemed like a good example.

    Please take note of this:

    “The statute applies to “confidential communications” — i.e., conversations in which the participants have an expectation of privacy… Conversations that occur in a public space or in an area where the parties do not have any expectation of privacy are not covered by the wiretapping statute.”

    I am most definitely not a lawyer, but I suspect any CSR working for a company that uses the “your call may be recorded for quality and training purposes” disclaimer would probably have a hard time claiming that they expected privacy so a recording made by a customer who called would quite possibly be entirely admissible.

    Really, the CSR policies outlined for the mystery company make perfect sense from the position of an entity (the company) who knows it can’t control everything it’s staff says and wants as little documentation/proof of statements/agreements. Even if their intentions are good they don’t need your recording floating around where a CSR said they’d fix a problem. If it ends up not fixed it looks bad and if the CSR has a bad day a recording could easily make the company itself look pretty horrible.

    However, that doesn’t mean that those policies reflect the legal reality of the situation (I have personally run into situations where a company and even a city office has intentionally misled people about something in order to improve it’s position in a particular situation).

  43. teamcoltra says:

    @Skipweasel,
    Here at t-mobile ALL of our calls are recorded, and thats for both training AND your security as well as ours.

    If you call back saying “You told me I would be able to have X for X price, and I paid Y, and didn’t get X” we can look up the phone call and listen to exactally what is said.

    They are also used to review our calls to make sure we meet quality standards. We are VERY big here at making sure we keep our customers happy (maybe thats why we got the JDPower&Associates award more than ANY other company consecuitvly for Customer Service?)

    ===

    I would also like to say that pressing 0 is usually my way of getting a human. It works in most phone trees, this is mainly due to some customers with disabilitys and such, they can just press 0.

  44. Shai Berger says:

    Hi everyone. I’m the cofounder and president of Fonolo. Sorry I’m late to
    the thread. Great to see the enthusiasm here. We’ll try to get passwords out
    to all of you as quickly as we can.

    Most of the comments here are regarding our call recording feature, so let
    me point out a few things:

    1) Call recording is opt-in
    If you aren’t comfortable with this feature, you can leave it off. My
    feeling is that if you are OK letting an online service (e.g. Google) store
    all your email, why not phone calls? Remember that you won’t be using Fonolo
    for personal conversations, just those with companies. I hope most people
    will see that the power they get from this feature outweigh these concerns.
    We have a very strict privacy policy that you can read on our site.

    2) Is call recording legal?
    Many of you have pointed out how the law changes for different juridictions.
    This is true, and it’s even more complicated than that. If I have a phone
    registered in California, and I’m roaming in New York, and I call a company
    in Texas, and that call is routed to a call center in Florida, which
    jurisdictions apply? Now make some of those endpoints international and
    things extremely sticky. This is a classic case of the law not yet catching
    up with technology.

    3) Will recordings hold up “in court”?
    I think people enjoy speculating about this adversarial angle. But, in
    reality, the primary value of this feature is for you to be able to review
    your own calls. As EmperorOfCanada mentioned, when a dispute arises, being
    able to playback a recording can be very persuasive without threatening
    legal action.

    Feel free to email me directly (shai AT fonolo) with any questions or
    comments. Also we’d like to know what companies you would like us to add to
    the database next.

    - Shai Berger

  45. dragonfire1481 says:

    Ok so I was wrong on one point, but I still believe the customer has to inform the rep they will be recording the call (in states that require two party consent). I could be wrong but I can’t consent to something I don’t know is being made (from the customer’s end, any number of parties can record a conversation and consent to one party shouldn’t necessarily imply consent to another).

  46. hnkelley says:

    Since the legality of the caller recording a call, wherein the caller is informed by the company called he may be recorded, is not specifically covered in anything I’ve been able to find, I sent an email to the folks at [www.rcfp.org] “Can We Tape”. If I get a response, I’ll post it, or the basics at least.

    OTOH, the law is pretty convoluted, so don’t expect any cut-and-dry answers. Keep your fingers crossed!