The Return of Click to Call?

Click to Call as been around online forever, yet it has been little used. Historically yellow pages publishers (e.g., Superpages) that offered it saw limited use vs. more conventional phone calling to local businesses.

At one time Google offered it as a feature to contact local businesses on Google Maps. But that was discontinued in 2007. Similarly the pre-Bing Windows Live Local also had “call for free” (C2C), which was later discontinued. Why? Basically because these services were not used except by a small number of people. We may, however, be entering a new period where Click2Call “returns” and becomes more widely adopted and actively used, as part of a larger movement toward VoIP services.

Two developments point toward but don’t guarantee this . . .

First there’s a new Facebook app from a company called 8×8 Connect, which places a “call me” button on your Facebook profile and doesn’t show a user’s phone number:

This launches a module (image can be replaced with profile photo) to enable people to call any number supplied by the user:

Next, Google’s browser Chome has added a Skype-like “extension” that enables click to call  through the browser:

  • Adds a button to the toolbar, which displays the number of unread messages in your Google Voice inbox.
  • Gives you quick access to your most recent messages with transcripts.
  • Lets you initiate calls and send free text messages by just typing any number or contact name.
  • Makes phone numbers on websites callable via Google Voice by just clicking on them.

Of course Skype has similar functionality, and is/was being used by European Directories as part of a local/Maps SEO strategy.

As a momentary digression, imagine how Facebook might implement its own version of this: free calls domestically and low-cost, Skype-like calls outside the US. And imagine how this might facilitate “leads” to local businesses via Facebook. Although it might be hard to charge on a per-call/per-lead basis given the availability of the 8×8 Connect free service (or others that might crop up). Still this C2C capability potentially makes Facebook even more useful to local businesses as a marketing platform. The line between C2C and PPCall is a thin one, of course.

We’ll see if these new services and/or others like them “take” this time around. My guess is that the market is now better conditioned to understand, accept and use these types of services.

7 Responses to “The Return of Click to Call?”

  1. Victoria Oldham Says:

    It’s very interesting to see all the recent buzz about click-to-call. When one considers that connecting by phone is a method of contact that everyone is familiar with, it’s a wonder that more people don’t have a click-to-call button or form on their site. To be truly successful, it really needs to be tied to some kind of incentive, or much-desired product or service. One thing that’s true about desktop-computer-based click-to-call: it’s just an extension of a typical contact form, because the user must enter their phone number into a form in order for the system to “know” their number and bridge the call. With mobile phones, the system automatically knows the user’s phone number, so click to call becomes more convenient and intuitive. In our experience with our own click to call application, we have learned that security features are essential to the success and practicality of click-to-call. With no way to block nuisance calls or schedule calling time on or off, click-to-call can have some serious drawbacks (as Google discovered when it experiemented with it a few years back). After security issues are addresses (on multiple layers), click to call can be a very advantageous tool for online businesses that want that instant connection to their visitors.

  2. Nicholas Says:

    8×8 connect is better known as packet8, one of the competitors to Vonage for VOIP service. I used them for about 5 years for my home phone.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Victoria . . . thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    Yes, screening is an issue. But one can do that with with Google Voice — if you route calls through it presumably. Other C2C systems do have the capacity to schedule time on and off (Igenio’s Ether did I believe). So the technology makes that possible.

  4. Victoria Oldham Says:

    Beyond a simple click-to-call function, it is very difficult to do much creative marketing with Google Voice. In our experience, it’s the marketing and branding angle that makes click-to-call successful. We developed our own click to call and contact form application because we found a need for many more factors that encourage the click-to-call application to be utilized. For example, our system allows for 100% customized design, editable introductory and confirmation messages, and the ability to have more than just a phone number entry field; it’s easy to capture information like “name,” “email address,” or add any other custom field. A click-to-call form (or button that leads to form) is in essence, a simple web contact form; the user must enter their phone number into a field and submit, just like any other web form. So we developed a contact form generator that makes forms that can connect by phone, mobile text message, and email (Magic-call-button.com).

  5. troy Says:

    Click to call is one of those technology solution looking for the problem. Its only appeal for consumers seems to be a potential savings on long distant calls but either most companies have 800 numbers or most people have a long distant dialing plan. Maybe this product should target parents to have this feature on their website so their kids or grandkids will have no excuse for not calling.

  6. mosayyaz Says:

    Those applications that benefit most from click to call will eventually fuse with mobile apps. Then the idea of click to call will sound daft. Simply call, after all that is still the primary feature of handsets! The tracking of phone numbers will no doubt remain important for all concerned and this is where I think current click-to-call technology will end up.

  7. Victoria Oldham Says:

    If click-to-call is simply viewed as another communication channel in the methods available using a typical web contact form (connect by phone, email or SMS), there’s nothing earthshattering about it…or even worthy of much argument. It’s simply another online contact option. However, in a carefully-crafted, incentive-driven web form, where more information than the phone number is captured, it can be a very powerful business intelligence tool. For example, a click-to-call web form may ask for the visitor’s name, email, reason for the inquiry, and phone number. The form is submitted and the phone rings. The business gets the report with the information just entered, the moment, or before, the phone is answered. The report also shows which page the website visitor is coming from and the geo-location. The benefit to the visitor is that, with the information the business just received, their inquiry can be handled more efficiently, and tailored to their needs, helping them learn about, find, or purchase a desired product or service.

Comments are closed.


%d bloggers like this: