April 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Don’t Call Us...

Jaduka combines the Internet and conventional telephones to help e-retailers reach out and touch someone.

When people hear the words “phone” and “Internet” in the same breath, VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) more often than not comes top of mind. A company called Jaduka, however, is among a growing number changing minds from fancy VoIP to plain old telephone service, often referred to as POTS.

Jaduka’s flagship technology, Click-and-Connect, enables consumers to enter their phone number somewhere on a web site, such as the customer service page, or within a banner ad, to spark an immediate callback from the site proprietor or advertiser. In other words, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” But in this case, the statement is sincere.

Some Internet retailers have found a host of uses for Click-and-Connect. BuyAPuttingGreen.com, for example, sells stand-alone putting greens, a product that raises many questions among potential buyers. They’re what Dave Barlow, president of parent company Creative Sports Concepts, calls a “high consideration” item, like a washing machine or diamond necklace. Prices run from $669 to $1,789, and there’s the matter of where and how to install one. As a result, a sale is much more likely if a human being talks to a shopper about the finer points of the items, Barlow says.

To enable this communication to help drive sales, the e-retailer decided to run with the callback technology, making it psychologically easier for customers to get in touch, Barlow says. Rather than taking his focus off the e-commerce site to make a phone call, a customer clicks the Call Now button, then enters his number and clicks. At the other end of the fairway, BuyAPuttingGreen.com’s phone rings. Moments later the customer’s phone also rings, and a BuyAPuttingGreen.com rep is ready to talk.

Online video
Online video does most of the informational heavy lifting, but the personal touch helps, Barlow says. “Shoppers always ask if there are installations in their area they can see,” he says. He’s been using Click and Connect just shy of a year and says feedback from shoppers has been good.

Other Jaduka telecommunications technologies include a personal, portable 800 number that routes calls to any phone, and e-Greetings, an e-mail greeting card with Click-and-Connect built in. The latter came about when Bill Binnig, Jaduka’s vice president of marketing, received a postcard from his dentist and thought how great it would be if he could just click a button and make an appointment.

Today Binnig and Jaduka are smiling because the company licenses its technology to about 50 web developers that rebrand it for their own customers. Binnig wants a broader smile, though: He hopes that number will jump substantially as a result of the company’s latest application programming interface that gives developers greater flexibility to put telephone interaction points within a web site, banner ad or e-mail.

Click-and-Connect takes advantage of the telecommunications infrastructure owned by Jaduka’s parent company, NetworkIP, and Jaduka makes money by selling phone time. When a customer enters his number, it sparks two calls-the first from Jaduka to the e-retailer, the second (after the e-retailer is on the line) from Jaduka to the customer.

Jaduka licenses the application programming interface to developers for a fee, and it charges them the cost of resulting telephone calls or negotiates bulk call packages. Developers can program pages with Click-and-Connect in Java, Perl, .NET, Visual Studio and PHP.

“We see value not so much in the transport of phone calls but in the services you can build on top,” Binnig says. “VoIP adoption is only 3%-why would you leave behind the 97% of the market that’s still using the public switched network?” Jaduka’s applications can function via VoIP, with NetworkIP providing VoIP service. But calls made through Click-and-Connect will remain on conventional phone service until VoIP is equally stable and reliable, the company says.

Network IP was founded in 1998 to build a telecommunications infrastructure to support services such as prepaid calling cards, conference calling and personal 800 numbers. Because Network IP works mostly with telecom resellers, it started Jaduka (originally called PrivateTel) in 2005 to market its excess network capacity directly to consumers and businesses. The subsidiary’s original service was providing temporary telephone numbers for people who ran classified ads.

It’s a date
Click-and-Connect, also introduced in 2005, found its first customers among Internet dating sites, whose users often want to chat on the phone but even more often are wary of giving out phone numbers. The company changed its name from PrivateTel to Jaduka in 2006 to escape the privacy-protection pigeonhole. In Swahili Jaduka means, very roughly, “get down to business.”

A trial Click-and-Connect account is free and includes 60 minutes of talk time. Any phone number-regular, 800 or mobile-can be associated with the account. Retailers can add a Click-and-Connect button to any web site page, banner ad or e-mail message-anywhere HTML can go-by cutting and pasting Jaduka’s application programming interface.

Retailers can control when a button is active if their representatives are only available at certain times. At such times the button is grayed out. If for some reason Jaduka doesn’t get a response when it calls a representative, it can be set up to give the customer an apologetic message. Further, calls made through different web pages or banner ads can be routed to different numbers for better targeting of responses and easier call tracking, the company says. With this type of differentiation, reps can easily tell which page or ad inspired the call, making it easier to aid a customer.

So far, the service is only available in the 48 contiguous states, though Jaduka is working on adding international service. Thousands of users, both businesses and individuals, have signed up for Click-and-Connect accounts, either directly from Jaduka or through resellers.

Click-and-Connect is marketed by web service providers under different brand names, including ISAT Call Now, from e-commerce platform vendor Performance Communications Group, and TalkOne, from e-commerce shopping cart software vendor Goldbar Enterprises LLC. Goldbar purchases minutes in bulk from Jaduka and offers the service to e-retailer clients for a flat fee of $20 per month

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