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Rich Tehrani

[March 19, 2003]

Axing The $22 Billion-Plus Directory Assistance Market!

BY RICH TEHRANI


The directory assistance market in 2003 brought in $22 billion from North and South America, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim according to the Zelos Group. These are numbers that are difficult to fathom. This money could probably end world hunger, build better schools worldwide, reduce worldwide poverty rates and more. I found another market research company, The Pierz Group that pegs the US directory assistance market in 2004 at more than $6 billion, growing to over $8 billion in 2007!

These numbers include fixed line and mobile assistance, and for those of you that have used directory assistance, you know you can pay just under a dollar for fixed assistance to over a dollar for mobile. In order to make sense of these outrageously large numbers in my head, I assumed 200 million US citizens are able to call directory assistance. Assuming each call costs about a dollar on average, to hit six billion, each person would have to make 30 calls a year -- or one call every 12 days -- which seems high to me.

But taking these figures at face value, corporations and individuals have a tremendous incentive to reduce these costs. When you are in front of a computer you can use Verizon�s SuperPages for businesses or Yahoo People Search for individuals, but what about from your mobile phone? It is on your mobile phone, where you need directory assistance the most, that the costs are highest.

A company called Easy411 wants to reduce these costs by charging only 65 cents per directory assistance call. I have tested the service twice and it works as well as any other directory assistance I have called. There is an automated �What city please?� followed by a live agent. You can receive two listings per call. The one downside is that they don�t connect you automatically to your party. You may consider this a good option as it requires you to place the call yourself, meaning the number will be saved in your phone for future use. Many times when mobile directory assistance completes a call for me, the number is busy and I need to call back anyway.

But getting back to savings, here are the directory assistance charges from some of the major wireless carriers:

AT&T              $1.25
Cingular            $1.29
Sprint PCS       $1.25
Verizon:            $1.25

So, the savings in many cases is in the 40 to 50 percent range. According to The Pierz Group, about $2 billion of the $6 billion total dollars spent in the U.S. on directory assistance are for mobile calls. Assuming a savings of only 35 percent per call, the total amount saved in the U.S. would be $700 million dollars!

The way it works is straightforward�When you sign up for an account, you specify your cell phone or other number so that when you call Easy411, whose number is 877-EASY-411 (877-327-9411). There is a corporate option allowing you to enroll many numbers in a single step. They are working on a consumer/business option in which the charges can be billed to either the user or the company (for reimbursable calls).

If you don�t enjoy being nickel and dimed to death (who does?), give the service a try and lets start axing that over $22 billion dollars down to size!

 Please talk back to me in our forums.

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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