From the August 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

For years, large companies have used auto-dialing systems for sales calls and customer satisfaction surveys. The systems, which integrate your computer system and office telephone network, are programmed with a list of numbers and generate calls continually. When a customer answers the phone, he or she is automatically routed to a live sales agent, who then handles the transaction.

In the past, such systems have cost upwards of $300,000 for larger call centers. But as with other electronic technologies, prices are coming down--good news for entrepreneurs. Companies like Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc. (http://www.telemkt.com/genesys) and Call Center Solutions (http://www.callcenters.com) sell telemarketing solutions with automated dialing technology that cost about $3,000 per work station. As with high-end systems, a list of numbers is entered into the system so the calls can be automatically dialed; when someone answers the phone, the salesperson is immediately alerted.

In addition to being more reasonably priced, these telemarketing "assistants" are much more sophisticated than they were in the past. For example, when customers call in on your toll-free line, they can be routed to sales agents with whom they've done business before. That's a nice, human touch this type of technology wasn't able to provide before.


Gene Koprowski has covered the tech industry for 10 years and writes a monthly computing column for The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Contact him at 74203.1677@compuserve.com

Range Rover

Increase your wireless phone's working area with new antenna technology.

Roaming out of the range of a wireless service provider can be a frustrating experience for entrepreneurs. One solution: new antennae that substantially extend the range of wireless phones and decrease the number of dropped calls by up to 80 percent, according to manufacturers.

One company offering this technology is RangeStar International Corp. (http://www.rangestar.com) in Aptos, California. "[Due to the] explosive growth of wireless communications, call quality and coverage have suffered," says Eric Hass, president and CEO of RangeStar. How does the RangeStar PCS Antenna ($29.95) work? Simply clip the device on top of your standard digital phone antenna to extend its coverage range. The antenna will also increase the phone's battery life because it won't have to expend as much energy to send and receive signals. The clip-on weighs just half an ounce and is about an inch tall, making it unobtrusive and a snap to install. Other manufacturers of similar products include Oki, Mitsubishi and Motorola.

Virtual Receptionist

Give callers the help they need any time--day or night.

One of the most frustrating things for prospects or customers is getting stuck in one of those older, semi-automated phone systems. "Please enter the extension of the party you are calling," states the system--not very helpful if you don't know which extension you need. Sometimes there's a spell-by-name option, but if your party's name is more complicated than "Smith," it could take you a long time to connect to your party.

Advances in voice-recognition software, however, are easing the process a bit. New call-answering systems, offered by firms like Registry Magic Inc. (http://www.registrymagic.com), enable callers to state the name of the person they're looking for and then be routed to him or her automatically. Registry Magic's system costs $12,000 or can be rented or leased for $350 per month. With voice-recognition software, it's like having a real operator on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact Soruces

Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc., (888) 436-3797

RangeStar International Corp., (800) 927-2757

Registry Magic Inc., (888) R-MAGIC-8