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I work for a large web site design and hosting firm. We are planning to introduce a suite of SEO services.

I have been given an interesting task as part of the development effort. The goal is to be able to clearly demonstrate to our clients (who number in the thousands) how many phone calls are being placed into their business by people who visit their web site.

The process by which we hope to achieve this is as follows: we will issue clients (again, thousands of them) a new, toll free number that they will only display on their web site. This number, when dialed by a consumer, will forward the call to the store’s existing, legacy number, but our servers will monitor the length of the call etc.

To illustrate by example: our company might assign a store, “ABC Discount” a new 1-800 number, “1-800-111-1111”. Now, for many years, ABC Discount has had a 1-800 number they have been using in their business, “1-800-999-9999”. A customer goes to ABC discount’s web site, where they see their web only phone number (1-800-111-1111). The customer is interested in ABC Discount’s products, so they dial the 1-800 number on the site (1-800-111-1111). Our server systems (somehow) pick up the call to 1-800-111-1111. The servers know to forward the call to 1-800-999-9999 (which happens silently, in the background, with minimal delay with Caller ID info etc. preserved). Our servers note that the call was made, record the duration etc. and (possibly) even have the capability of recording and saving the audio of the call.

Later, the owner of ABC Discount can log into our web based content management system and see how many calls he received from his web site today, how long each call lasted and even listen to the audio of a call or two to see what was said. This lets us show him how hard his web site is working for him/her. (It is only one of many analytics tools we will have available, BTW) I know that the technology building blocks to implement this sort of solution are out there. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of companies that offer virtual PBX services, all of which (I presume) are built on top of some sort of industry standard equipment etc. It looks to me lie we are basically trying to setup our own (very stripped down) virtual PBX solution (where every business is configured identically, essentially).

No amount of Googling, however, has revealed to me the software/hardware virtual PBX systems/providers are built on. I just don’t know where to start.

We would love to outsource the “guts” of the system to a competent host, if anyone can point us in the right direction, that would be great. It would have to be a real “commercial” grade solution, because we would be managing thousands of numbers and need API level access to provision accounts, track minutes used etc. (IE: don’t tell us to go talk to virtualpbx.com, tell us to go talk to the telephony system hosting provider that virtualpbx.com uses to host its solution)

We are also willing to build our own solution and have the budget to do it (i.e. buying a 30k, 50k or even 100k worth of telephony hardware and collocating it etc. does not scare us in the least…). Anyone know what sort of hardware/connectivity we would want to use? We DON’T want to do any VOIP or anything like that. It needs to be POTS for the most part.

Any ideas on where to start on this project? (Even the contact info of suitable companies/consultants would be useful)...

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2 Answers

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Haave you looked at asterisk? http://www.digium.com/en/ you can use standard x86 hardware and purchase the cards to build your own. This will also give you flexibility in that you can go to voip if you chose.

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I'm not aware of any such solution that works without:

  • pulling data off the VoIP/PBX that would reside at each location (essentially replacing their phone systems would be a requirement)

  • using a "call me now" SMS/VoIP "gateway"/API service: basically the user enters their phone number on the site, the gateway calls back/routes call to the "real" phone number, and on the site (or in the "cloud"), the phone number of the caller, recording/transcription, etc. is tracked/stored. I'm completely gray on how this works, all I know is that I've seen and used this on numerous vendor websites. These guys look capable and have a useful looking feature set and a "use case" story that sounds almost exactly like what you're asking for:

What Problem Does Twilio Solve? We're always building web applications, and sometimes we want those apps to be able to interact with phone callers. Maybe we want a customer to be able to call in and get information, or maybe we need to coordinate our employees more efficiently. Before Twilio, you would have had to learn some foreign telecom programming languages, or set up an entire stack of PBX software to do this. At which point, you'd say "aw, forget it!" Twilio lets you use your existing web development skills, existing code, existing servers, existing databases and existing karma to solve these problems quickly and reliably. We provide the infrastructure, you provide the business logic via HTTP, and together we rule the world.

Best of luck, wish I could provide more information.

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