USA Global Link Takes Call-Back Service to 'Net

A new service from USA Global Link Inc. puts a new spin on the concept of the telephone call-back service, bringing the idea to the 'Net in a bid to ease communications between consumers and merchants.

At the Financial Tech Expo conference, which ended yesterday, Global Link premiered its Instant Call system, designed to let Internet users click on a button displayed on a Web merchant's site in order to set up a live phone connection with a service representative from the site.

The pitch is to make it easy for companies to enhance their Web sites with voice-contact capabilities.

Global Link has already made a name for itself internationally with its telephone call-back system. In the traditional call-back system, the subscriber dials a Global Link number, and hangs up after hearing a ring. The Global Link switch then obtains a cheaper line than the one the subscriber has and calls the subscriber back, who then makes a call anywhere in the world at a discounted rate.

The Instant Call system announced this week uses some of the back-end technology that the regular call-back system uses, according to Global Link officials. With Instant Call, merchants place one or more buttons on the sites -- behind the buttons are one or two lines of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), supplied by Global Link.

The site can tell consumers to click on a button if they want to buy a book, for example, or to download software. When people click on the button, a dialog box pops up and prompts them to type in their names and phone numbers. A signal is sent back to a Global Link server, which then notifies the Web merchant's service desk that a potential customer wants to be called.

Web surfers who have separate lines for their phones and computers can get a call back from a merchant and have a discussion while looking at the site on the 'Net. Otherwise, the consumer with one dial-up line

can have the merchant call back at a later time. The service is free to consumers, since they are getting the merchants to place the call.

The idea is that many people want to speak to a live human being when making a purchasing decision, or want to ask some technical questions when downloading software, said Marc Freeman, vice president of sales and marketing for Global Link.

"I think it's a good marketing tool, and I can also use it for technical support," said John Robinson, sales director for Money Line, a recently launched financial information services company based in New York, which is adding Instant Call to its site.

Because potential customers -- Money Line is offering free trial periods for its service -- have to plug in their names and number into the site, the company can easily start to develop a database of leads and prospects, Robinson said. "But we also offer technical assistance when we call back -- to use our service you have to download a proprietary browser, and no matter how easy you make that to do, people always have questions," he added.

Global Link is charging vendors US$100 to set up the HTML links and buttons, and then a flat rate of 17.9 cents per minute for the phone call itself. It also charges 60 cents per transaction, or less, depending on volume.

Since the company proclaimed a year and a half ago that it was building the most ambitious worldwide Internet telephony system yet planned -- a 1,000 node global IP telephony system -- Global Link has kept a fairly low profile while building up the network. [See "Global Link Details Strategy for 'Net Telephony Services," April 17, 1997. ]. Within the next few weeks, the company plans to make an announcement about a telecom partner for the network.

Global Link can be reached in Fairfield, Iowa, at +1-515-472-1550 or on the World Wide Web at

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