To capitalize on the growing mobile market, a company called HeyCosmo is launching two new location-based service designed for use on both the web and the phone. The first service, HeyCosmo Concierge, wants to help you save time on everyday tasks like making dinner reservations or finding an affordable contractor. The second, HeyCosmo Blaster, is a social event planning tool.
The goal behind HeyCosmo Concierge is great: save you time. However, its practicality makes me wonder. The service implements advanced telephony technology to help you complete tasks. The easiest example of this would be making dinner reservations. Instead of you calling restaurants one-by-one in order to find an 8:00 PM seating for a party of five, you could use HeyCosmo Concierge to do the dialing for you. With an automated, but customizable, message, its robo-dialer immediately contacts all the restaurants in your area (and this can be narrowed down by cuisine, too) and asks the recipient of the call to press (1) for yes, we can accommodate you, (2) no, we cannot accommodate you, etc. in response to the initial recorded greeting and question. The particular questions and how they are phrased can be specified by you. You can also record your own voice if desired. At the end of the messages, an ad will play, which is how the service makes money.
After placing the call, you’ll see results return immediately, in real-time, and next to each listing you’ll see the status of the call and then how the person on the other end responded (1, 2, 3, etc.) or if there was no answer.
The technology behind this is pretty impressive, but my concern is for the people on the other end of the call. Would they think this recording is spam? Would they realize it’s just a recording and hang up? Did I just save my time at the expense of theirs? Based on the number of restaurants dialed with no response, I think it’s entirely possible that the answer in many cases would be “yes.”
The reason? Phone trees. After years of navigating the annoying phone trees in an effort to reach an actual human being when dialing up customer service, there’s a profound distaste for automated greetings and messages that’s still very prevalent in our culture. And unfortunately, without willing participants on the other end of the line, HeyCosmo Concierge won’t be effective.
However, the other app by this company, HeyCosmo Blaster, might have some potential…at least among the mobile-savvy kids, teens, and young adults of Gens X, Y, and Z. Blaster is a simple social planning app. To use, you just enter in a date, time, and place to meet along with the names and numbers of your friends.
Blaster, like Concierge, immediately dials your friends and presents the menu choices you specified. (i.e. “Press (1) from Meet at 1:30 PM at the mall,” “Press (2) to meet at Katy’s house at 2:00 PM,” etc.). Organizers can then see the results in real-time and pick the most popular choice.
Although the technology is essentially the same as that of Concierge, the difference here is that you can have a personal conversation with your friends, family, or other group of message recipients beforehand: “Hey guys, since there’s so many of us, I’m going to use this new mobile tool from now on to organize our __________ (Fill in the blank: meetings, study groups, classes, meetups, parties, etc.) Your phone number will also show on their CallerID, so they will know it’s you. Since your friends will be expecting the call, the responses are bound to be a notch above those that come from Concierge, which is essentially a recorded message beamed to perfect strangers around your city.
As for who this service appeals to, my vote goes with the younger crowd. Obviously, anyone could use it, but with this group, mobile devices are glued to their hands, so here it has a better chance of success.
You can visit HeyCosmo’s web site and check out all their services here: www.heycosmo.com. Concierge and Blaster are both also available as Blackberry apps; an iPhone app will arrive in a few weeks.
Note: HeyCosmo also has another service, HeyCosmo Prankster, which was not demoed today. As a 10-year-old, I would have loved it. As an adult, I have to say that it’s just plain wrong.