Sunday, June 3, 2007

Free Directory Assistance: 1-800-GOOG-411

Last month Google started testing a new experimental directory service called GOOG-411 Experimental. You dial 1-800-GOOG-411 from any phone and a voice prompts you for the city and state you want and then asked for a business name or category. The first time I used it I called and asked for "pizza" in my home town - South Hadley, MA. I got a list of the top 8 pizza shops and was then asked if I wanted to be automatically connected free of charge. I also had the option of having the number and address text messaged to me - all free!
It's not just Google offerring these kinds of services. A couple of months ago Microsoft purchased a company called Tellme Networks. You may not have heard of Tellme but they are the company that provides automated directory services to most of the large carriers like AT&T and Verizon. In response to Google, Tellme has come up with their own free directory assistance service that you can reach at 1-800-555-TELL. Here's how Tellme works as quoted from their website:

"Call 1-800-555-TELL (8355) and say what you want!
Say a business, any business
Say "Business Search" at the main menu
Ask for a business name like "Domino's"
Or a type of business like "day spa".
When you hear the one you want, just say "Text me the info" to have the phone
number, address, and a map sent to your mobile phone".

Much of this is in response to Jingle Networks (1-800-FREE-411), a company that started offering free directory assistance a little under two years ago. Jingle isers actually hear ads from companies like McDonalds and CBS. On their website Jingle says thy have serverd over 200 million directory assistance calls so far. With the average cost of a single directory assistance call on a cell phone being over $1.50 many of us try not to use directory assistance. These services are changing that. Here's a quote from a Jingle press release:

"While consumers across the nation use 1-800-FREE411, five metropolitan areas have saved the most money by programming 1-800-FREE411 into their phones and hanging up on paid directory assistance. These cities and their associated savings since September 2005 are:

  • New York: $25.8 million
  • Los Angeles: $24.4 million
  • Chicago: $16.7 million
  • San Francisco Bay Area: $12.0 million
  • Dallas/Fort Worth: $10.8 million
“The rapid rise in the number of calls to the service reflects the fact that people nationwide have embraced us and that they love to share this money saving tip with their friends and family, underscoring our viral growth,” said George Garrick, CEO of Jingle Networks. “The consumer excitement around the service creates an even more attractive opportunity".
Not to be left out - AT&T has started a free director assistance service at 1-800-935-5697 in parts of California, Ohio and Oklahoma with plans to roll it out in other areas this summer. The AT&T service also includes short 15 second ads.

I'm going to go order another pizza!

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