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 http://www.usagl.com/.