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I’m sure you’ve seen this robbery tactic before…a person catches your attention and begins to talk to you and while they are talking to you, their accomplice is robbing you blind.
Today I received an email from my VOIP provider Vonage that has me wondering. The bottom line from the email is Vonage bills will be increased by $1/month starting with billing dates in late April. We will also be able to use free 411 service (something I’ve never used in 5 years). By raising their fees which are hidden on the Vonage website, they keep their sales price low. Here’s the full email I received:
Dear Allen Stern –
At Vonage, we’re committed to providing our valued customers with the best experience possible through regular updates to our services. Effective April 23, 2010, we’re making the following changes:
We’re adding free, unlimited Enhanced 411 to all Vonage calling plans – saving you $1.49 per 411 call! This added benefit is included in the Emergency 911 and Information Services Fee which also ensures we provide nationwide E911 service in accordance with FCC regulations.
In addition, the Regulatory and Compliance Fee becomes the Regulatory, Compliance and Intellectual Property Fee. This fee covers our regulatory-related and legal compliance expenses, including those related to customer privacy protection, anti-fraud protection and number portability, as well as intellectual property-related costs enabling our services.
Both fees will increase from $1.49 per month to $1.99 per month beginning with your first billing cycle on or after April 23, 2010. This change will allow Vonage to maintain our commitment to safety, innovation and customer service.
I think it would have made more sense to send an email noting the pricing fee change and then include the free 411 service in their normal monthly email. The way they sent this email feels like they are trying to hide the 33% increase in their fees.
In case you are wondering, I went on a hunt and found that the Regulatory, Compliance and Intellectual Property Fee covers:
- Customer privacy protection
- Anti-fraud protection
- Number portability
- Intellectual property-related costs enabling our services
At least I know from their email that my additional $1 will mean excellent customer service!
Last night I received the following message from my VOIP provider Vonage. "Now through Christmas Eve, you, your family, and friends can leave Santa a message by dialing 1-700-CALL-SANTA (1-700-225-5726) from any Vonage phone! You’ll be connected directly to a holiday greeting from Santa himself. Also, starting at 5pm EST on December 24th, throughout the night you can also track Santa’s deliveries as he travels around the world. The kids will get an opportunity to hear where Santa and his reindeer have been and where they are headed next to deliver his goodies to all the good girls and boys!"
While I’m not into Santa, the idea of calling a number and interacting with content sparked my curiosity. Could services like PimpMyNews and other audio content providers benefit from partnering with VOIP providers? PimpMyNews currently requires that you download the content before you leave or listen via your mobile device over wifi or traditional mobile connections. But what if we could dial into a number, select our content provider and hear live content from our favorite blogs, news sources and other websites.
There could be some new partnerships between VOIP, mobile and content providers.
If you really wanted to take it to the extreme, the new commenting services like Disqus and IntenseDebate could read your blog’s comments to you and allow you to reply to any comment via voice. The service would then transcribe the comments and post them live. This would avoid issues with devices like the iPhone where typing a long comment might not be that productive.
Are there already solutions that provide this type of audio content interaction?
One of the exciting features of the iPhone is the visual voicemail. I don't own an iPhone so I can't comment, however Vonage has just launched their own version of visual voicemail. Today I received my first voicemail which was transcribed using their program. Is this really the best they can do? This voicemail comes from a family friend who speaks perfect clear, crisp English.
First the version from Vonage Visual Voicemail:
"Hey. Elements bonds a chair and it's Oh new time on wednesday. I have been. Think work for both calling or writing but i don't. What you think it's because i don't they took get off and. i hear the new name in your greeting night. Hope that means that. Something that should doing is clicking well 4 I was. Real excited for your browser presentation in philadelphia nope that's still going well. What should drop me a note. By email or do me a call at Test over to reach me on now. By the way is and you can use just forever. Is (removed but wrong). For through. 16 that's 1 of those grand central City the rings or my office of my home on my mobile all at the same time. Switch it back and forth fifth. It's grand central as far as in boy that's a real certain support services so it's not something you've already spoken to. Anyway talk to you soon hope or get an email and This. Make sure we stay in touch. Bye bye."
Can you figure it out? Here is the actual voicemail transcribed by me:
"Hey Allen, It's Bob, its about noontime on Wednesday. I have been neglectful in calling or writing but I don't want you to think it's not because I am thinking of you often. I hear a new name in your greeting and I hope that means that something you are doing is clicking well for you. I am excited to hear about your presentation in Philadelphia Why don't you drop me a note by email or give me a call at – the best number to reach me at – (ph removed) it's one of those grandcentral numbers which rings on my home, the office and the cell at the same time. GrandCentral is part of Google and it's a really super service worth looking into if you haven't already. Anyway talk to you soon I hope or get an email and let's stay in touch. Bye Bye."
So you iPhone'rs, please report in if the VV function is more accurate on the iPhone. Clearly the Vonage version isn't ready for prime time.
Update via Robert Seidman’s iPhone: Visual voicemail doesn’t work like you think..its still all audio but if you get 10 voicemail you see them in a list like a list if songs. You see who called and can play in any order you want or ignore altogether. No annoying prompts or having to skip over msgs you don’t want. Its a great feature but isn’t speech to text.
I am a Vonage customer since last year and have been pleased with the service overall. As long as you stay away from customer service, things go pretty well. I had Packet8 before Vonage and also thought the service was quite good. Tonight I received an offer, pictured below to "refer-a-friend." Over the years I have seen many of these deals. Basically you refer a friend and you get some credit and the friend gets some credit and Vonage gets a new customer. What makes this offer different is just how much they are giving away! This is almost more than what you get for a new credit card! You have to wonder just how much they can giveaway before it starts to hurt financially. One would think with Sunrocket's closure Vonage would be set for new subs, at least this month.
It states the following for a new account referral:
- Up to two months free service for the referrer
- A month free for the new account
- Both get a $50 Amex gift card
Total value to referrer: $100. So if you are a Vonage customer, start referring people! If you need a referral, I will be happy to share with you, just send me your info. Perhaps we can get a conga line going!
Vonage has launched a new service today called V-Access. The service is pretty interesting. Say you are in the UK and need to call your sister (who is a Vonage customer) in the U.S. You could use a calling card, Skype, etc. And now you can use a local number in the UK to call your sister in the U.S. This service is currently available in the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and the UK. I think even better is the fact that you can call 800#'s which you can't easily do from overseas.
V-Access provides an access number to make calls to any Vonage phone number (or an 800-number) without paying long distance or international fees. With V-Access, callers do not need to have a Vonage line to call a Vonage number (or an 800-number) for the price of a local call.
Best part? You don't even need to be a Vonage customer to use the service.