“FreeConference.com rolls out premium toll free service at $.10 a minute” by Elliot M. Gold

Why? Because its customers asked it to.

FreeConference.com has rolled out a toll-free conference call service, booked over the Internet at $.10 a minute, and it’s making money at it (like it is with its free service). The service, which was rolled out August 1, will produce 84,000 minutes of use this month, or $8,400 in revenues.

Yes, that’s a measly amount of money, but while many in the industry are Doubting Thomases, in an exclusive interview with The Crystal Bald, I found that the company is growing at a rate that exceeds the rest of the industry.

Factoid 1: FreeConference.com did 14 million minutes (of “free” calls) in August, up from 10.8 million minutes in May this year (Electronic TeleSpan, June 23, 2003, p. 1). That’s a 30% sequential quarterly increase!

Factoid 2: FreeConference.com now has 55,000 accounts (Berlitz Translation: Customers).

Factoid 3: One of the largest newspaper chains in the United States, after doing a story on FreeConference.com, has designated FreeConference.com as its “preferred” provider for internal conference calls, and told this to its nearly three-dozen member newspapers.

Factoid 4: One of the largest single users of conference calls in the United States, one that uses conference calls to the touch tone of 30 million minutes a month, has begun to migrate its traffic to FreeConference.com after an extensive trial. In doing so, it has begun to abandon one of the largest more traditional conference call services in the United States.

Factoid 5: FreeConference.com has all of six (6) employees.

“Elliot, we found that many of our customers were looking to host conference calls, and found it inappropriate for their attendees to pay the long distance to attend,” said Warren Jason, CEO of FreeConference.com. “So we offered them the calls toll-free at a dime a minute, and they took it.”

And the competition?

Warren had some not-too-kind things to say about his competition. During the interview with Electronic TeleSpan, he related a story of how he tried to set up an account with one of the top service providers in the industry.

He went to their Web site, which didn’t show their rates, and found that he had to send an e-mail to the company asking to become a customer. In return, he received a questionnaire asking him where his office was, how many calls he thought he’d make, etc., which he then had to submit. On the third day, a saleswoman from Pasadena contacted him (by e-mail), asking even more questions.

“Elliot, after three and a half days, I still didn’t have an account with them,” said Warren. “With our service, you go to the Web site, fill out a short form, put in your credit card information, and in seconds your account is registered. When you make a call, less than 20 minutes after the call is completed, we e-mail the registered account manager a full accounting of the call details, the number of end points, the length of the call, and how much we will bill their credit card.

“This is part of my own campaign is to commoditize the conference call market,” said Warren. “There’s nothing out there now like cellular phone services where you go to a Web site, purchase a phone and the service and you’re done, without ever talking to somebody. Why do conference call services require that I take a call from a lady in Pasadena after waiting three and one half days to subscribe?”

Good question!

Aren’t you glad you subscribe to Electronic TeleSpan?

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Reprinted from the September 1, 2003 issue of Elliot Gold’s Electronic TeleSpan, with permission.

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