Add live voice to your Website

By Christine Perey, ITworld.com |  Networking

Voice-enabled Websites are growing in popularity. John Cha, an industry analyst for
Frost & Sullivan, a research firm in Mountain View, Calif., said this market for
products and services that integrate visual and aural media grew 385 percent in 1999.
He projects it will grow another 322 percent in 2000.

If you're considering adding live voice to your corporate Web presence, where should
you begin?

Many brand-name providers, including WorldCom and AT&T, offer hosted solutions.
Regional service providers and community-building sites are also getting in on the act.
And emerging technology providers such as HearMe, Lipstream, and Interactive
Intelligence can either sell you servers with which you can build your own VoIP portal
call center, or host such services.

As the landscape of options explodes, keep a few simple principles in mind.

Start with a big toe

You should start small. Don't put the live voice option on the splash screen of your
public Internet site. Try a pilot with a segment of your resellers in a protected area
of your portal, for example. This application could make the voice of your sales
support professionals (a notoriously friendly bunch) the first one contacted. The
person who receives the call can route it to a regular telephone or a PC telephony
interface.

Another place to try a pilot program is the employment-inquiry Webpage, where people
seeking certain types of jobs, such as call center operators, might click on a button
to schedule an interview. This would, in effect, preselect relatively Web-oriented
candidates and give them a feel for the job they are applying for.

Explore hosted solutions

Though the technology to voice-enable Websites has existed for more than 3 years,
industry players are shifting their business models and actively forming partnerships.
This indicates that vendors are focused more on building infrastructure and acquiring
customers than on developing applications. The implication for enterprise customers is
that mergers and acquisitions could easily mean the end for some promising
technologies. Rather than purchase server software or gateways, try a hosted solution
for at least 6 months. Before you commit, examine the service agreements to see who
allows you to alter the relationship with the lowest penalties.

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