MIG Launches Free 5-digit Voice Shortcodes

Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) has launched free-to-consumer five-digit cross-network voice shortcodes for mobile users.  The service, powered by MIG’s Voice Gateway, enables brands to offer consumers a free to call, five-digit number, rather than requiring the consumer to pay around 50p per minute for an 0800 number call from a mobile phone.

MIG says the launch of zero-rated, five-digit, cross-network voice shortcodes presents a huge opportunity to brands, call centres and large communications providers, while also benefitting the consumer.

Retailers will be able to offer shoppers the ability to check the status of their order or the delivery status of a product, and to contact customer services and make product enquiries. In the financial services arena, consumers will be able to check their balance, monitor activity on their personal account, make direct debit payments, and do everything else they can currently do via a landline. Utility services customers will be able to text or call in their meter readings, call to settle their bill, request a brochure or other marketing collateral, and talk with customer services. And anyone that operates a call centre, and has historically only offered landline services, will be able to offer the  consumer a free route of entry via mobile.

Noting that in 2010, UK consumers spent £1.9bn calling non-geographic numbers such as 08 numbers, with the vast majority of calls coming from mobile phone users who are charged a premium, MIG commercial director Rob Weisz says:  “We’ve been working closely with the mobile network operators on our Voice Shortcode strategy and the capability to now offer a free-to-consumer voice shortcode opens up a plethora of opportunities, enabling brands to build a more transparent and trusted relationship with their consumers via a free mobile service, whilst also keeping the consumers’ needs and experience front of mind.  Customers can contact the brands they wish to purchase from and communicate with, safe in the knowledge they’re not being charged.”


David Murphy writes:

Some people get excited about a new smartphone or Tablet, but for us, the launch of free 5-digit voice shortcodes is potentially much more exciting. As mobiles become ubiquitous, and more brands start reaching out to consumers via the mobile channel, voice communications going the other way – from consumer to brand – have been the missing piece of the jigsaw. For while brands can splatter 0800 numbers all over their marketing collateral to zero-rate the cost of a call in to them from a landline, call one from a mobile and you’ll be charged a premium for it. On my current mobile tariff, for example, calls to 0800 numbers cost 20p per minute, no matter how many hundreds of inclusive minutes I have left.

So giving brands the ability to zero-rate calls in to them from a mobile is the logical next step in the not-so-gradual move to a mobile-only world. It’s a significant change, and one that will require some consumer education to reassure people that they won’t be charged for the call. But it’s one that brands should welcome with enthusiasm. CRM and customer service have always been, to my mind, a major part of the mobile marketing game. Today’s announcement from MIG makes mobile CRM a whole lot easier for brands to embrace.


Update – 12 Jan:

This story has caused something of a rumble in the aggregator community, with some competitors claiming that the cross-network part of the story could not be accurate, since one network, T-Mobile (and by definition, Virgin Mobile, which runs off T-Mobile, does not yet offer the shortcodes. We have spoken to both T-Mobile and MIG about the matter. T-Mobile confirmed that they do not yet offer the shortcodes, but that they are working on them, and hope to have an update soon. For its part, MIG points out that the headline on the release it issued clearly used the phrase to launch as indeed it did. The full headline was: “Mobile Interactive Group to launch freephone cross-network voice shortcodes to corporate sector”.

The future tense was less evident in the body of the story, however, which said: “Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) today announces the launch of free-to-consumer, five digit, cross-network voice shortcodes for mobile users and in the note accompanying the release which said: MIG is first to market with free to call voice shortcodes (any operator)”.

We have since had a second release, from Orca Digital, announcing exactly the same thing. Having spoken to the company, it too has confirmed that the shortcodes don’t work on T-Mobile but that this is, in their words “imminent”.
So at the end of the day, it looks like a question of semantics. What we can confirm is that the voice shortcodes do not currently work on T-Mobile or Virgin Mobile. When we hear that they do, we’ll let you know.