A while ago, I wrote a post considering the idea of switching to VoIP phone service. At the time I wasn’t too keen on Vonage since they were one of the more expensive options, but when my wife and I moved and decision time arrived, we went with them. We got the equipment for free, they had some of the best features, and had better ratings and reviews than most of the other providers. That was over 6 months ago and I have to say I’m very happy with their service.
Anyway, enough background info…I have Vonage and I came across this forum thread titled: fun things to do with your Vonage line. The first post is pretty fun. Apparently there are a couple of easter egg numbers in the Vonage system. You can dial:
- 867-5309 – To listen to a clip from the Jenny song.
- 555-2368 – To listen to the theme from Ghostbusters.
There’s also the Dashboard Dialer widget for OSX users. The idea is simple. You type in and submit a phone number, your Vonage line rings, and when you pick up, it automatically dials the number for you.
Looking into the source of this handy widget, I discovered that it simply passes a few variables over a query string to: https://secure.click2callu.com/. That url is actually a Vonage-sponsored beta test of web-initiated calls, and the best part is that all the instructions for interacting with it are right there on the homepage with code examples in html, php, and java. SWEET!
Reading down to the bottom of the page, they even have development ideas and examples of how it has been used. One particular idea caught my attention:
Business web page where customers can enter their phone number to initiate a call from your customer service department to them.
When I thought about this a little more I realized that by giving the customer a way to initiate a call with you online, you are giving them a toll free method of talking to you. That’s pretty big! Rather than offering an 800 number for customers to dial, you could simply put a form on your website where they submit their phone number, which causes you to call THEM. As a Vonage customer with unlimited long distance, the call is free for you, and since this interface causes you to call them, it’s free for them too.
I took the php code they had posted at click2callu and made an example:
Call Me Toll Free
I disabled the actual dialing on that example, so you can’t really call me with it, but you can download the working sourcefile here if you want to play with it:
Use this example at your own risk! The php code actually limits the input to 10 digits, and checks for a few of the typical area codes that you wouldn’t want people to make you call (900, 976, 809…), but it obviously wouldn’t prevent somebody from trying to make you call a number in the bahamas at ten cents a minute, or an impotency clinic, or The White House, or…well you get the picture.