FastCall411 streamlines the process of looking for a local service provider by letting you call a handful of them at once. The first one to pick up gets your business, which the company hopes will resonate as a good consumer experience that sidesteps issues of disconnected numbers or unanswered calls.
CEO Richard Rosen told me his data show about two-thirds of calls to local merchants go unanswered, while inaccurate or outdated local business data is a well known issue. Rosen, a former exec at Jambo and CallSource, launched FastCall last March and my colleague Peter Krasilovsky wrote about it here (also see the company’s presentation at DEMO).
What’s new is the prospect of portability in its offering. Following the same logic as many other companies such as Agendize, FastCall411 will widgetize the technology in order to gain distribution and traction around the product when it is planted on well-traveled local search sites and IYPs. Rosen is currently in talks with a handful of undisclosed local search providers and will announce a few distribution agreements soon.
“We do want to build distribution, and we have a widget that essentially lives in a listing,” says Rosen. “This [includes] a phone number and the click-to-talk widget that can dial that one merchant or more than one merchant.”
The buttons or widgets themselves will carry FastCall411’s branding, but there is still an opportunity to brand the distribution partner during the call, according to Rosen. This would involve a voiceover that tells a merchant the IYP from which the call originated, much like other call tracking services do.
In addition to proving value to the advertiser in this way, Rosen is angling the product as a good user retention tool for IYPs and local search sites that could save users from the hassle of unanswered calls and having to go down a list of providers until someone picks up. The reality of this problem would come down to lots of variables and vary across service categories, but his point is taken.
“Our pitch [to IYPs] is that ‘hey, the consumer just did a search; they called the merchant, the phone was disconnected and there is a way to create a better experience,’ ” says Rosen. But unlike other valuable click-to-call functionality from the likes of Ingenio, Voicestar and eStara, wouldn’t the option to call many providers conflict with paid listings?
The answer is yes, but for that reason (and others) Rosen is angling the product to reside within non-paid listings in IYPs. His proposition is that FastCall411 will pay distribution partners for any calls that are generated through the widget, which it then hopes to monetize.
“Our primary strategy is to extend the widget but unlike a call measurement play, we’re looking to pay our distribution partner for the calls we generate,” says Rosen. “We’re going to give you the API and the widget and as long as you generate calls — which we think we can monetize — then we’ll pay you a couple pennies a call.”
This is an interesting extension of FastCall411’s value proposition, and we’ll have to wait and see how it works in this distributed way. This will come down to the company’s ability to monetize it and how well its consumer-centric angle really resonates with IYP and local search users. The potential is certainly there.