From the November 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Dialing a cellular phone while driving is a potentially hazardous affair. But wireless service providers are attempting to solve the problem for entrepreneurs who have to travel frequently by offering voice-recognition dialing services.

The services allow you to preprogram your phone with an array of frequently called numbers and simply call whomever you want with one vocal command, or you can vocalize a string of numbers--no special phones required. Two companies that currently offer voice-recognition dialing are Bell Atlantic (http://www.bam.com) and AT&T Wireless (http://www.attws.com). Bell charges $2.99 per month for the service while AT&T charges $6.99 per month--both prices are in addition to your usual service fees.


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.

Don't Call Us . . .

The ultimate in customer service: Your clients don't even have to dial.

Many consumers hesitate when asked to enter a credit card number on the Internet. Large sites like Amazon.com and Priceline.com combat the problem by telling shoppers they can call a toll-free number and leave their credit card data with a customer service representative. But why not call customers yourself and save them the trouble? That's exactly what a new software program called Web Callback from WebCentric (http://www.webcentric.net) does.

Here's how it works: Your company simply installs a Web-to-Phone icon on your Web site. When customers want to buy something with a credit card or have a question about using a certain product, they simply click on the icon and enter their phone number. A few seconds later, representatives from your firm call those customers to answer their queries.

The service provides many benefits: Prospects can speak with a representative at the point when they're really interested in your products, problems can be solved quickly, and your company seems more responsive.

Adding the phone icon is simple: It's just HTML code you can incorporate into your Web site and customize to your requirements. There's no setup charge for the service, and calls within the United States and Canada cost you 20 cents per minute; international rates are higher.

Telecom Translations

DSL, ISDN, T1--which is best for you? Click here.

You run your business, focusing on your core competencies, but telecommunications costs are increasingly eating away at your profits. You might be able to reduce your costs on cellular or long-distance service, but how on earth can you figure out the cost benefits of DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) or T1 (One Trunk) lines?

VoicePro (http://www.voicepro.com), a telecommunications consulting firm in San Ramon, California, now offers a network services department that can filter through both local and national telecommunications offerings and make a best-price or best-service recommendation to you. It can also translate mind-numbing telecom jargon into plain English so you know what you're getting into (or can at least impress colleagues at a business lunch). Other consultants, like MGC Communications Inc. (http://www.mgci.com) and Teligent (http://www.teligent.com), offer similar services for about $100 per month.

Why should you pay for an analysis of your telecommunications costs? Because there's a lot you can do to modernize your networks and achieve cost savings that you're probably not aware of--and you probably don't have time to sift through the jargon yourself.