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Toll Free Number in India

Almost all telecom operators in India provide toll free numbers in India. Also, all private operators except BSNL( Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) and MTNL ( Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited) which are government enterprises, can also provide international toll free number.

All operators terminate/forward their toll free number to their own telephone numbers only. Which means, if one applies for a toll free number from BSNL, she will have to get at least one BSNL telephone number too. While I last spoke to BSNL, they do not forward heir toll free number to any GSM phone numbers. Other private telecom service providers forward their TollFree numbers to any number, be it GSM/CDMA or landline numbers.
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I think this is a topic that many people seem to be asking each other or in Google search. I also get many inquiries, emails about the same. So I thought, I would post what I think about starting a Cloud telephony Service company in India.

Last couple of years, some Cloud Telephony companies came into existence in India and with their aggressive social media campaign as well as venture capitalist funding, they have become famous and talking point in many tech discussions.

While all these look good, the situation may not be that good. Being in IVR industry and blogging about IVR since 2008 ( Yes, not many of these Cloud telephony Companies did not exist in 2008!) I can suggest everyone in one sentence

“Do not start Cloud Telephony Service company without VC (Venture Capitalist) Funding and if you are not very patient.”
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One business process which is likely continue in near future is, alerting a customer about change of any status in her lodged task or availed services. For example, the lodged task could be like flight ticket, wait listed train ticket, service complaint, banking credit/debit or any other services. A flight may be delayed due to many reasons and it becomes very important for air lines to intimate the customer about the delay to avoid an agonising wait at the airport. Such unwanted wait not only annoys the customer, but it can also cost money to the airlines.

There are many ways to avail any of the above services. For example one may book flight ticket using the following ways :-
Various platform are available for lodging complaints
1. Smartphone APP
2. Website
3. Mail
4. Email
5. Phone Call to airlines ticketing division.
6. Personal Visit to airlines sales office
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In this age of much hyped cloud IVR, there are still some users who still use on premise Interactive voice response system on analog telephone lines. In one typical and unpredictable problem while using analog line is, sudden high voltage in the telephone line and damaging the CTI board. While this problem is not frequent and many CTI boards are equipped to handle this kind of voltage fluctuations, still it may happen anytime anywhere and there seems to be no permanent solution to it!

Recently, I had learned similar experience while speaking to an Analog IVR user. IVR systems works fine but suddenly it stops working as the CTI board stops working, unable to sense incoming calls. Finally, they had found a solution to it, by using FCT ( Fixed Cellular terminal). yes, they have changed their analog landline number to mobile phone number which is connected to CTI board. The previous landline number was forwarded to this mobile number and the existing system kept working, callers did not realise about the changes which had taken place!

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Call Hunting is a smart feature which are available in many high end PBXes. Call Hunting feature is mostly known as Line Hunting in PBX world which is a normally a group number. There is one group number which one dials and the call may land of any lines in that group depending on some algorithm.

Similarly, there are call hunting scenerios in call centre where there is one toll free number with multiple lines. Anyone calls to that toll free number may land on any number which are mapped to that toll free number. Typically, any toll free number is mappwed to a PRI line which has 30 channels or lines.

In the age of cloud telephony, call hunting has developed into many more complex scenerios. There are no longer grouping of just PRI lines or landline telephone number or even PBX extensions, but there mobile numbers from different operators which could be grouped together and hunted as per some algorithm.
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Now a days, I keep getting news about starting cloud telephony service providers in almost all cities in India. This phenomena or mushrooming of Cloud Telephony Service reminds me of good old VAS ( Value Added Service) days in India in 1999-2006 during initial days of telecom boom. Similarly, VAS companies mushroomed during that day and after 10 years, nobody discusses about VAS industry anymore.

Cloud Telephony Service seems to catching up with old and new entrepreneurs with “Digital India” and “Smart City” campaign by present government. We can hope it will bring in positive changes and increase mass acceptability of IVR systems in India.
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Unseasonal rains destroys crops as well as it may delay some crops which in turn cause rise in prices int he market. With global climate changes, the occurrence of unseasonal rains have become quite normal in India as well as other countries. Specially in India, this has recently become a big problem as agriculture is mainly dependent on rain. There are many incidents in India of farmers committing suicide due to loss of crops due to unseasonal rains.

A simple outbound IVR can be used inform farmers in advance for any expected rains as well as educate them alternatives crops in case of unseasonal rain.
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Most of cloud telephony service providers use a facility, “Call Forwarding” telecom operators in India where a “virtual IVR” number is provided to a cloud Telephony service user. Now this number is normally a 10 digit mobile number which is mapped to a “PRI number” which is essentially a land-line number. This virtual number is mapped to the PRI number by using call forwarding facility where every call coming to that 10 digit mobile number ( either GSM or CDMA) is forwarded to the PRI number unconditionally.

This is really a good arrangement in terms of redundancy simply because if a PRI goes down for some reason, the number can be forwarded to another PRI number and nobody will realise any downtime for the IVR service!

Another advantage is, normally this kind of forwarding allows up-to 30 channels per number. So, a single 10 digit number becomes a phone with multiple lines which multiple incoming calls could be answered simultaneously.

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Software Advice, A Gartner Company, conducted market study about IVR( Interactive Voice Response) System installed in customer-service centric companies in the Fortune 500 and collected metrics around the average wait times, length of option recordings and the number of options in the top menu.

This study reveals interesting data. There are only 30% IVR Systems which use both voice and dialpad inputs for choosing any menu option, and 42% uses dialpad (DTMF Key input) only input option and rest 28% uses voice input only.

Another interesting find is, 74% of IVR sampled use female voice while 26% uses male voice. While this is on expected line, but still 26% use of male voice seem high.
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During my recent travel to few cities in India, I had interaction with many people in telecom and IVR world. One thing which was common opinion among them was, on-premise IVR systems are making a come back. And at the same time, cloud telephony acceptance is also going up.

I feel, cloud telephony in India has helped acceptability of IVR system in India. India is one of the few countries where voice mail system never really put to use. There were very few and line phones and when telephone revolution came, it was mobile phone which had many features already and voice mail system never really taken off unlike western countries. So, naturally, with low telephone penetration, IVR, which is a value added service, never really had high usage in India.

But with Cloud Telephony, IVR is becoming well known and IVR usage is going up. Still, I think Cloud Telephony has following issues in India which is why on-premise IVR is also making a come back:
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