Unitel Communications Ltd, a privately-owned software firm in Redhill, Surrey has developed a pre-paid telephone card that gives users free phone calls, while giving the company issuing them a subtle means of finding out more about its customers so that it can target them at a later date in marketing exercises. The cards have been […]
Unitel Communications Ltd, a privately-owned software firm in Redhill, Surrey has developed a pre-paid telephone card that gives users free phone calls, while giving the company issuing them a subtle means of finding out more about its customers so that it can target them at a later date in marketing exercises. The cards have been used in the US for around three years by garages, restaurants and fast food stores that want to advertise special offers or promote customer loyalty using recorded messages by giving away phone credits on plastic cards. Unitel took the US model, adapted it to the UK telecommunications infrastructure and has been selling the cards in the UK for the past six months. Companies that want to use the cards decide the credit level, the domestic or international access they want customers to have, and their promotional message. Unitel then designs the cards accordingly. The company claims that it can build and manage a variety of domestic and international call rates based on individual personal indentification numbers, and provide gateways to voice mail and facsimile services.
Users make free calls by dialling a Mercury Communications Ltd freefone number and quoting their personal identification number. But before being connected they are subjected to the company sales spiel and given the opportunity to select a number on their touch-tone telephone to hear yet more promotional information. The freefone numbers connect to the Unitel callcentre, a collection of personal computers running MS-DOS and NetWare servers that re-routed the call via Esprit Telecommunications Inc switches to domestic or international phone lines. Ashpool Systems Ltd, a shareholder in Unitel, developed the audiotext and interactive voice response software used to record the company sales messages and forward calls. The call-forward facility enables the card user to leave a message if the line is busy, or there is no reply. The system will then re-dial the number every 30 minutes. The voice response software runs on Ashpool’s HiVox operating system that was developed specifically to handle audiotext files. HiVox is connected to Audiotext system which holds recorded voice information in digitally compressed files. It is also connected to the CardCall database which holds cardholders’ personal identification numbers that can be used to trace their telephone numbers, and therefore unleash telemarketing on unsuspecting cardholders. Unitel has been marketing the cards for around six months in the UK via distributers JBX International Ltd. UK resellers Ultimate Telecard sell both promotional cards and cards without advertising. It said 10,000 promotional cards with 10 minutes UK long distance calling would cost ú30,000.