Israeli communication pioneer replaces cellphone numbers with names

‘With Call My Name, a company’s identity is reinforced every time a customer picks up the phone to call.’Once in a while a person runs into an ‘Aha’ moment when speaking with an Internet startup genius. As in: ‘Aha! How …

‘With Call My Name, a company’s identity is reinforced every time a customer picks up the phone to call.’Once in a while a person runs into an ‘Aha’ moment when speaking with an Internet startup genius. As in: ‘Aha! How is it that no one ever thought of this before?’ The genius has an idea for a product or service that is so obvious, it is inconceivable as to why the product isn’t being used on a widespread basis already.

Then there’s the ‘I knew him/her when’ moment. These are the moments of realization: the person’s who has the genius idea is soooo good that it’s obvious he/she is headed towards fame and fortune – serious fame and fortune.

Now imagine if you could combine ‘aha’ and ‘I knew him/her’. The genius in question is Ehud Nahum, and his Call My Name product is indeed a work of genius: Instead of dialing phone numbers to reach a business or a service, you ‘dial’ – that is, punch in on your phone’s keypad – the name of the business or service.

How does this work? Say you wanted to call travel agent. But which one?, Well, how about one that you could reach by ‘dialing’ the phrase “I-800-T R A V E L?” That’s Call My Name – instead of dialing phone numbers, you dial the name of a business, an industry, a service, or even a person, as a name, not as a phone number!

Call My Name is a truly remarkable idea that seems like it should have been in place ages ago. And yet it took Nahum – an MBA and computer tech wiz – to realize that the Internet revolution, which took off when names, not esoteric number combinations, began to be used to reach Web sites, could be repeated on cell phone networks.

In all fairness, however, Nahum says he can’t take all the credit: A service like Call My Name could have only happened after mobile phones proliferated and subscribers signed on to mobile services. While traditional “land line” phone companies are tied to hardware that demands specific communications protocols, mobile phone service providers do all their work on flexible computer servers that control switching and call placement.

Because of that flexibility, it was no big deal for Call My Name, in conjunction with cell phone service providers, to set up a number for Israel’s Mizrachi-Tefachot mortgage bank that consisted of the Hebrew word for “mortgage” (mashkanta). Nachum says that during a pilot advertising program, the bank experienced a 200% rise in callers inquiring about a mortgage – because entering the key word “mortgage” directed clients to the bank!

“Compare that to studies that show that even after major, expensive ongoing campaigns fewer than 1% of consumers on average remember the advertiser’s number and what the company is selling,” Nahum told ISRAEL21c.

Even expensive 800 numbers paid for by companies consumers are trying to reach don’t seem to help. “We’re offering businesses the opportunity to identify themselves with product more fully than ever before,” Nahum says. “Customers who want to reach a service or organization must remember its name, which studies show is retained much more often than a phone number. This way, a company’s identity is reinforced every time a customer picks up the phone to call,” he adds.

At the same time, the consumer’s life is made easier; Telephone numbers flashing across the TV screen and remaining uncalled by viewers who lack a handy writing utensil and paper are a thing of the past; advertisers need only come up with easy-to-remember names or terms, sit back and wait for calls to flood in, claims Nahum.

1-800 numbers with letters in lieu of digits and sponsored by traditional phone companies have been around for years. But companies are limited to seven-character names in working with traditional phone company providers. Call My Name’s innovation is the capability of extending the service to a broader range of potential customers due to the company’s 3-11 digit capacity.

According to Nahum, his business background combined with a decade of telephone industry experience sparked the Call My Name inception. The idea came when he realized that the goal of any business is to inspire customers to “take action.” Removing obstacles to action – like replacing phone numbers with company names when it comes time to pick up the phone – is almost guaranteed to increase contact between a business and its potential customer.

Most startups in Israel usually take office space in anonymous, low rise and low rent office buildings, especially when they start out. That’s actually to their credit, since they don’t want to waste investors’ money on ‘niceties’ like a view of the sea, using the funds instead to develop their product. But Call My Name – although right now a small business, with about eight employees – is housed in pretty nice digs – a high-rise office building in the heart of the Ramat Gan Diamond Center, inside a building belonging to a major Israeli construction firm.

Clearly there’s a connection – but what does an innovative high tech idea have in common with a builder of high-rise office space? “They know a good thing when they see it,” says Nahum of his landlords – who also turn out to be the major investors in his project.

Nahum says he has several patents pending worldwide for the technology and deals pending in the US for businesses to sign up with mobile phone service providers to for Call My Name access. He already has agreements in place in Israel with the country’s four mobile phone service providers, earning him the title of “service integrator” at home.

Only one integrator can work in the marketplace when dealing with businesses in a particular industry and mobile phone companies understand this. Because Nahum was the first and thus far sole company providing the service, “it’s an open market right now – sort of like being the ‘Google’ of telephony name communication,” he says.

A bold comparison but Nahum is modest when it comes to understanding his idea’s limitations; while he expects Call My Name to be on the cutting edge of what looks to be a major new way of using mobile phones in the future, he knows there are no guarantees. It takes time for consumers and businesses to get used to the idea of doing things a new way and abandoning digits may be traumatic for many in both camps. So progress will have to be slow and steady, at least for now, he admits.

Nahum may be right; it took Google a few years. And although traditional companies initially kiboshed the idea – it runs counter to a lucrative 1-800 business, after all – some have begun expressing interest in the service, not wanting to be left behind.

Because all growth in phone communications these days is measured in mobile phone development, traditional telephone companies are already slightly behind the eight ball. And considering the advertising advantage Call My Name customers will have by branding themselves with local phone numbers as opposed to paying for 1-800 calls, Nahum already has an edge.

For now he’s doing his utmost to spread the word and offer incentives by charging initial sign-up companies cut rate prices. Later in the game competition will heat up for “m-o-r-t-g-a-g-e” and “t-r-a-v-e-l.” That’s the time to look back and say: “Yep, I knew Ehud Nahum when!”

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