IVR Billing and Beyond

Marc Jarrett
In theory, the dialer is the ideal billing mechanism to convert international surfers into paying customers. End-users simply download some software onto their PCs which then connect the user to a protected members area via a premium-rate telephone number. Website owners are paid on a per-minute basis for the user's access.

In practice, however, the dialer-era was short-lived for a variety of reasons.

When dialers first emerged, surfers worldwide (most of whom do not have a credit card) finally had a way to pay for the forbidden fruits that the web had to offer. Not surprisingly, webmasters that implemented them were delighted also – a brand-new revenue stream emerged overnight from surfers who were visiting their websites anyway.

Unfortunately, several crooks were also drawn to the moneymaking potential afforded by dialers and started creating variants with malicious code that would either make it difficult for the user to disconnect, or worse still, would then reconnect to a premium rate number every time the user would try to connect to the web via his or her modem – leading to horrendous (and unauthorized) phone bills.

To compound the problem, a range of viruses were making regular, unwelcome appearances throughout the web, leading to surfers becoming suspicious before downloading any software onto their PCs from third parties they did not know or trust.

Furthermore, increasing broadband penetration had rendered the old-style dialer obsolete anyway. For broadband customers, LAN billing now exists whereby access to a website is granted as long as the customer stays connected to a premium rate line by telephone. However, this solution is wholly inadequate for the majority of the world's surfers who do not have the luxury of a spare phone line.

All is not lost, however: solutions now exist on the market which utilize the same underlying billing mechanism as the dialer, but that do not require the end-user to download software or have a second phone line. IVR billing is best described as 1-900 for the global village. With IVR billing, surfers are invited to call a premium rate telephone number to receive the password necessary in order to unlock a protected member's area for a limited period of time.

If such billing is combined with geo-targeted calls-to-action, the result is a powerful global billing tool. Surfers will be pleasantly surprised to be sold to in their own native tongue, and by definition, everyone who has access to the web has access to a phone line.

So whilst the dialer may have died, the underlying billing principal on which it was based is still alive and well - thus allowing webmasters to still make money on a global scale...