Aug 27 2010
Internet start-ups have earned the reputation of being somewhat of a lottery. There was a day when people could come up with practically any idea, put it on the web, and they would make money. Sometimes they made lots of it. Auctions have been going on since 500 BC, yet eBay made billions off them. A general store is a basic staple in every economy, yet Amazon also capitalized off the dot com craze.
Then there are the sites that really didn’t do much at all, but still profited. There’s the Tumbleweed Store, Doggles (goggles for your dog), and my personal favorite, the Million Dollar Homepage. A starving college student built a 1000×1000 grid and began selling each pixel for $1 a piece. Over the course of 5 months he sold all million pixels, earning slighting more than a million dollars. Towards the end the price per pixel was well into the thousands.
The other day I came across a similar grid, called QuickFuse. It has an X-Y axis and the ability to place objects on it. This grid however, isn’t a comedic marketing device. It’s a new and innovative method of creating interactive voice response systems (IVR). To those who don’t know, these are the automated operators you get when calling customer service.
The QuickFuse application is truly an amazing tool. Having worked with IVR systems before, I know what goes into building them. First you design the call flows. If the customer enters “1” then they get one set of options, if they enter “2”, they get another. And down the line it goes. After a thorough and lengthy design process, it’s then handed over to developers to build. Once everything’s in place, a professional voice talent records the prompts in a clear, friendly voice. And finally, the client changes their mind about one minor detail, and you start all over again. The process can easily run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and is a huge strain upon IT teams.
No longer. QuickFuse’s grid allows for call flow diagrams to be built in minutes. You just click to add the object, type in the prompts you’d like the customer to hear, and connect it to other objects within the call flow. And let’s say the crazy marketing lady with funny glasses wants the whole thing to change. No problem, just drag and drop the objects, reconnect them with a click of a button, and you’re all set up again. Some examples of the available objects are Yes/No branches, Simple prompts, Multiple Choice prompts, and Voice recording, to name a few. It includes everything you need to build highly complex systems. They have variables, databases, branching logic, and APIs to integrate with other systems. The basic usage uses Text to Speech (TTS), meaning, you type what you want the prompts to say, and it will convert it to spoken language. Currently, German, English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese are available. If your language is not on the list you can simply upload or record your own voice prompts. Many users will do this anyway, as they prefer a professional voice talent for their system.
QuickFuse grants you a toll free number upon registration. They also give you $30USD credit to your account. This will get you started while you build the system and service your first few customers. After that, it’s a pay as you go pricing model, with 5 cents a minute for general usage, and $10/month for the toll free line. This is a trivial amount of money compared to enterprise systems.
As I was essentially stunned by QuickFuse’s tool, I attempted to give it a whirl. Within minutes I had a basic IVR system set up. I clicked the test button, entered my cell phone number, and sure enough my phone rang and I heard the system I just created. I can use the app for both inbound and outbound calls. For outbound calls, just upload a list of contacts, and direct QuickFuse to call them and play my application. As it turns out, I’m not the only one taking notice of QuickFuse. More than 10,000 voice apps were created in the first month since launch. Sure, some of them are just kicking the tires. But as a somewhat seasoned software junkie, the tires never felt so good.
QuickFuse built a web application that represents the height of what the internet has to offer. They took a task that is both costly and highly inefficient, and made it simple and cost effective. They include a full set of tutorials and documentation, most of which you won’t need. The intuitive interface works as you’d expect it to. And after reflecting a bit on just how well this application is put together, there’s really only one question remaining. Will the QuickFuse grid, in all its intellectual and professional brilliance, outdo the Million Dollar homepage? For the love of the internet, and all its chaotic glory, man, I sure hope so.