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Numéro de publicationWO2001061975 A1
Type de publicationDemande
Numéro de demandePCT/US2000/004052
Date de publication23 août 2001
Date de dépôt18 févr. 2000
Date de priorité18 févr. 2000
Numéro de publicationPCT/2000/4052, PCT/US/0/004052, PCT/US/0/04052, PCT/US/2000/004052, PCT/US/2000/04052, PCT/US0/004052, PCT/US0/04052, PCT/US0004052, PCT/US004052, PCT/US2000/004052, PCT/US2000/04052, PCT/US2000004052, PCT/US200004052, WO 0161975 A1, WO 0161975A1, WO 2001/061975 A1, WO 2001061975 A1, WO 2001061975A1, WO-A1-0161975, WO-A1-2001061975, WO0161975 A1, WO0161975A1, WO2001/061975A1, WO2001061975 A1, WO2001061975A1
InventeursKirk A. Arbogast
DéposantA-Vision Group, Inc.
Exporter la citationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
Liens externes:  Patentscope, Espacenet
System and method for connecting a system user through a telephone system to a selected forwarding location
WO 2001061975 A1
Résumé
A method is provided for setting up a direct connection between a system user (1) and a selected forwarding location (11) from a variety of originating terminal devices connecting through a telephony network (10) to a variety of destination terminal devices. The method provides the system owner direct control and management of the arrangement and depth of a hierarchical structured group of options (9) selected by the system user. The system owner establishes a forwarded connection using toll-free numbers and directly manages the forwarded connections without an intermediary telephone system provider technician.
Revendications  (Le texte OCR peut contenir des erreurs.)
CLAIMSWhat is claimed is:
1. A call routing system, comprising:
(a) a heirarchical telephone voice menu system installed on a telephone network platform;
(b) where said heirarchical telephone voice menu system has a single primary subscriber;
(c) where said heirarchical telephone voice menu system has a single entry point accessed by using dial tone digits;
(d) where said heirarchical telephone voice menu system has at least one telephone voice menu;
(e) where said heirarchical telephone voice menu system has a plurality of telephone number terminating points; and,
(f) where each said telephone number terminating point is assigned one of a plurality of secondary telephone numbers each having a single secondary subscriber.
2. A method for using said call routing system of claim 1, comprising the steps of:
(a) said primary subscriber installing said heirarchical telephone voice menu system on said telephone network platform;
(b) said primary subscriber receiving an accounting of charges resulting from the operation of said heirarchical telephone voice menu system;
(c) said primary subscriber allocating a portion of said accounting of charges to each said secondary subscriber; and,
(d) said primary subscriber receiving a portion of said accounting of charges from each said secondary subscriber.
3. The method of claim 2 whereby said primary subscriber removes less than a plurality of telephone number terminating points from said heirarchical telephone voice menu system.
4. The method of claim 2 whereby said primary subscriber adds a plurality of telephone number terminating points to said heirarchical telephone voice menu system.
5. The method of claim 2 whereby said primary subscriber changes at least one of a plurality of secondary telephone numbers.
Description  (Le texte OCR peut contenir des erreurs.)

TITLE OF INVENTION

System and Method for Connecting a System User through a Telephone System to a Selected Forwarding Location

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gupta, et al, ("Gupta") describes a method for connecting a system user to a specific member of a group and a method for accessing a database to determine internal routing and processing of the call. A significant difference between Gupta and the present method is in the number of levels envisioned in the implementation. Gupta is described in the context of a single level group, such as airline reservations companies, and as a method that is intended as a mechanism for marketing system user data pertaining to a group of similar vendors having toll-free 800 numbers obtained from any service provider, i.e., each vendor would ""own" their own toll-free number.

Gupta states that each member of the group is envisioned to have some form of terminal device available that allows the member to ascertain certain data collected. Each group member is provided information on the number of calls to other members of the group as a means of marketing additional data to the group members. The system is also re-entrant and, in fact, it must be used this way to enable the collection of data that seems to be an integral part of the approach (and, therefore, have a commodity to offer for sale). A system user is routed to the selec ed group member (vendor) and data concerning the call is also routed to the group meml er selected. At the termination of the connection to one group member, the system user s queried to select another group member. Thus, the data for the first member of the group sc lected by the system user is that the system user has not contacted anyone else, but to subsequent group members, data on other group members contacted by the system user is presented. The last group member in a series of communications sees all of the other members that were part of the session. (It is not clear if this data by session is intended to be subsequently provided to the group members, but this would be a logical extension.)

Unlike Gupta that describes a single level category selection, the present method is to connect a system user through a hierarchy of category selections to a specific vendor. Entry into the system could be through a variety of terminal devices allowing selection and access to a variety of networks. The exit connection from the system hierarchy to the system-user selected vendor is made via an internal toll-free number used as a switch to connect to another number under the control and management of the system owner. The toll-free number switch is used to exit the system and connect to another network.

Herrero Garcia, et al ("Garcia") discloses a method of automatically delivering telephone communications via an IVR assisted call routing scheme coupled with a call forwarding device. The Garcia system is a method of exiting from an automated answering system rather than as an internal system switch as in the present method. Garcia describes a method of handling voice mail and automatically storing messages for remote delivery or for storing messages until the messages can be delivered.

The present method connects a system user to a destination by routing the call through an internal toll-free number switch that connects the system user to the selected network. Unlike Garcia, the present method also permits a system user greater flexibility by permitting the system user to traverse the hierarchy through a variety of terminal devices until locating the desired network connection. Once selected, the system then connects the system user to the selected network through a telephone connection bypassing the IVR hierarchy and connecting the system user through an internal toll-free number switch.

Srinivasan discloses a method for a call forwarding system that routes selected incoming numbers to a plurality of outgoing numbers depending upon a system user's selection of options. The patent discussion includes a description of the invention in terms of a subscriber being a potential operator of the system such that the subscriber may alter messages, change the routing telephone numbers and adjust the screening of calls to permit connection to the numbers stored within one of the system's databases. It also describes the method for a system user to locate a person via several possible system connections such as voice mail, paging, and routing the system user to a cell phone. This is a call forwarding system providing a capability to forward incoming calls to a variety of telephone numbers that are dynamically programmable.

The present method allows the system owner an ability to arrange data through classification schemes that are targeted at system user ease in identifying a desired network connection. The use of the hierarchy may be through a variety of terminal devices. The system user or the external network connection are not permitted the privileges necessary to adjust the hierarchy or destination telephone number associated with one of the imbedded toll-free number switches.

Unlike the Srinivasan method, which describes a general-purpose automated "answering service," the present method provides a platform for connecting a system user with an external network through a connection selected after traversing a hierarchy of options. Selection of the appropriate options by a system user may be by way of a variety of terminal devices.

Liao, et al ("Liao") describes a method for rerouting calls for a subscriber to an 800 service. The system routes a call from a calling party to an alternate location (other than the subscriber's primary location) via an adjunct processor and telephone company switches. The subscriber is billed only for the time the primary location is used. The switching arrangement is such that the rerouted call is to another 800 number and the subscriber to the second 800 number is billed according to the amount of time the system user is connected. The Liao method is for forwarding and to ensure a vendor is not double billed for two 800 numbers connected in series. Liao further states "... an objective of the present invention [is] to make the Advanced 800 facilities available to customers who have dial telephones."

Unlike Liao, the present method connects a system user directly to an external network through the use of internal toll-free numbers used as switches. Selection of the switch is determined through a series of system user responses using a variety of terminal devices. The number associated with a vendor is typically a local number or, if appropriate, a vendor-specific 800 number. The present method incorporates internal toll-free numbers used as switches that allow the system owner simple, rapid access for changing outgoing telephone numbers.

Charavarti, et al ("Charavarti") describes a method "... for redirecting a call from one destination point in a communications network to another destination point in the event that the call is not answered within a predetermined period of time, or in the event that after the call has been answered, the called party requests such redirection." Unlike Charavarti, the present method is for connecting a system user to a specific selected external network after traversing a number of levels of a hierarchy to facilitate user selection of a desired product or service.

Binkerd et al ("Binkerd") describes a method for having a system user dial an 800 number and transferring the call via DTMF or voice to select a POTS telephone number. The purpose stated is to allow a business to use a single directory number serving a plurality of services to select among these services on the basis of a spoken command or a DTMF signal keyed by the system user in response to an announcement (i.e., IVR). Unlike the Binkerd method, which describes a general-purpose call transferring system, the present method provides a platform for connecting a system user with a variety of networks. Selection of desired connection by a system user may be through a variety of terminal devices. For example, the system user may select a group of services as displayed on an Internet web page and, at any time, select an option to communicate using telephony. Once this option is selected on the Internet web page, the connection to the corresponding level within the telephony (IVR) hierarchy is made and the system user may proceed with selection using IVR or DTMF. Connection of the system user is made via the internal toll- free number switch.

Miller et al ("Miller") describes a method for permitting subscribers to change call- handling features for long distance networks in real time. The system provides for a user to change the call-handling features rather than first communicating the required changes to a service representative for entry at a later time.

Like the Miller method, the present method incorporates changes to the call- forwarding number for the internal toll-free numbers used as switches. Unlike Miller, however, the present method incorporates a group of toll-free numbers assigned to the system owner for the purpose of connecting the system user to a variety of networks. Updating of embedded classification scheme is accomplished in real time to ensure the telephony hierarchy and the external databases, employed for the purpose of communicating with a variety of terminals, are synchronously maintained. The present method embodies a variety of input terminals and the system user is permitted to enter the telephony hierarchy at any level. Once the system user enters into the telephony portion of the system, the system user may then interact using voice, or DTMF commands. Updating the classification scheme and associated voice prompts within the telephony system in real time from a remote location is an integral part of the present system. Once the system user reaches a termination point within the hierarchy, a tek phone connection is completed through the toll-free number acting as a switch.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a system and method for completing a telephone call by directing the call to a user-selected option on a terminal device that connects the user through a telephony device to the selected termination. The method uses a hierarchy of system owner-specified options available to system users through a variety of terminal devices including interactive voice response (IVR) or dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) telephone; voice over IP; Internet web pages; RF-based terminal devices operating over other networks; or a combination of these, and connecting to a forwarding location on a telephony-based telephone network and then to another network through an internal toll-free number used as a switch to connect through a system owner assigned telephone number.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Fig. 1 This drawing depicts a ... Fig. 2 This drawing depicts a ...

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a method for accessing a variety of networks from a variety of terminal devices. The terminal devices provide the system user the capability to select options using a variety of media and to select and connect to a forwarding location using a telephony-based device. The method provides the system owner an ability to rapidly adjust the internal hierarchical arrangement of user-selectable options that may exist in a number of different communications devices, and to rapidly adjust the termination telephone numbers within the telephony portion of the system. The method includes the system owner establishing a group of possible options on an input terminal device where each possible option may be further subdivided into additional system user selectable options and each of these subdivisions may be further subdivided in this hierarchical manner until reaching a termination point within the hierarchy, where the termination point may be at any level of the hierarchy as selected by the system owner; the system owner assigning each termination point within the system to a telephony system that includes a toll-free number implemented as a switch; the system owner assigning each toll-free number acting as a switch to an external telephone number; connecting the call from the system user to the external telephone number; retaining line connection while the system user is connected to the external telephone number; receiving a system user input for further action when the system user completes an external system connection; and transferring the system user to a user selected level within the hierarchy until the system user disconnects from the system.

The method supports direct dial telephone connections using a group of toll-free numbers assigned to the system owner and directly dialed by the system or the system user to access the telephony portion of the system. The method provides for a system user to select a forwarding location through an Internet enabled web page or other device and connect to the telephony portion of the system. With a single call, Internet connection, or other network connection, the system user may connect to various forwarding locations designated through a system owner managed logical arrangement of categories of options.

Each of the system owner managed hierarchies of options, that may be located on different platforms, is mimicked to allow integration and a system user option to move from one system user terminal input device through the telephony portion of the system connecting to another network. In its simplest form, the telephony portion of the method is implemented through services readily obtainable from a public telephone service provider and includes use of multiple toll-free access numbers connecting to an interactive voice response (IVR) platform containing the system owner provided hierarchy of options. These options are user selectable and include internal toll-free telephone numbers assigned to the system owner and used as switches, call forwarding, and an LEC acting as an intermediary switching location to connect to a toll-free number assigned on a different telephone system.

The method of the invention is to connect a system user through a hierarchy of options subdivided into more and more specific options until a particular forwarding location is identified. Once identified, the system connects the system user to the selected termination option by connecting the system user to a telephone number. Transfer to the user-selected system termination is through a telephone system using an internal toll-free number assigned to the system owner as a switch and, if appropriate, through an LEC to another toll-free number assigned to a provider of a product or service.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the system user may select to transfer from an Internet web page selected point within the system-owner designated hierarchy to an IVR enabled telephone system at any point within the hierarchically arranged categories of items, and begin using voice response or DTMF selections to select among voice prompts. The voice prompts within the system are arranged to mimic the web page enabled version of the hierarchy of categories. As illustrated in Figure 1, the system user enters the hierarchy of options at step 1 on the Internet-based side and may select any of the options identified on Parent Level 1 , step 2. Each Parent Level may have up to 10 children and each of these 10 children may become parents of 10 additional children and so forth. The user may select one of the options at Parent Level 1 1 , which is also the first child of Parent Level 1 , step 4. After selecting Parent Level 1 1 1 , the user selects to move to child 1 1 1 1 in the telephony-based hierarchy, step 9. The IVR system then allows the system user to select from a group of up to 10 options, step 9. The user selects to connect to the option identified at Parent Level 1 1 1 1 and is connected to the external telephone number via the internal toll- free number acting as a switch, step 10.

An example of a possible implementation scheme is illustrated in Figure 2. The categories of possible system user selectable options are to first select the country at the entry Level 1. For each country at Level 1, the system owner could then provide options for selection of city, Level 2. In each city the system owner could then provide options for the system user to select a specific type of service, Level 3. The type of accommodation is illustrated at Level 3. A specific hotel, motel, or resort is selectable at Level 5. A type of service is selectable at Level 6 and the system user is connected to the reservation desk as an exit point in this example.

The system user may select options within the system owner established hierarchy through a variety of possible terminal devices such as using a telephone or voice over IP to verbally select a desired path through the system hierarchy. Alternatively, the system user could select a pathway using interactive pages presented via the Internet or utilize DTMF signaling directly through a telephony device, or through a combination of these devices. The multiple entry paths and mimicked hierarchy of options is illustrated in Figure 3. In Figure 3, system user number 1, may elect to utilize the Internet and select system owner implemented options, while system user number 2 is moving through the same hierarchy of options, but utilizing a different medium (i.e., telephony). System user 3 navigates through the same list of system owner provided options using a third network. Each of the three users is connected to another network through the toll-free number switch to an external network.

System exit via an internal toll-free number used as a switch may be at any level of the hierarchy (i.e., for certain categories, there may be no need for additional levels). Thus, the system may be implemented to connect through a toll-free number switch at any level.

From a business perspective, should there be a need to adjust the hierarchy of options or to change the outgoing telephone number, the system owner has full management control and may implement changes at any time. This is a significant advantage in streamlining functionality for system users and as a means of rapidly adjusting to business circumstance.

Upon completion of the external system connection, the system user may traverse the hierarchy again from the same "parent" level in order to connect to a different child of the same parent, i.e., the syst m user may select another group member from the same parent group as the original selec tion. The internal toll-free number switch provides the system owner the ability to change the number pointed to by the toll-free number switch without incurring additional telephone system provider charges and, importantly, without long delays in adjusting the telephone number of the output connection. Of course, the system owner must pay charges associated with usage of assigned toll-free numbers implemented as internal system switches. The service remains "free" for the system user. Revenue is obtained through billing the vendor for completed calls.

As a feature of the present invention, the system could be implemented using telephone systems and features readily available from a variety of public telephone system providers in conjunction with other terminal devices and networks that are implemented to mimic the system owner controlled hierarchy of system user options. The ability to use a public telephone system provider for implementation of the telephony portion of this system greatly simplifies the implementation and management flexibility accrued to the system owner.

An initial implementation of this method is to limit each level of the hierarchy of options (i.e., parent) to spawn up to 10 children (i.e., potential new parent options). Each of these 10 may spawn another 10 children and so on. For practical reasons the matrix is implemented as a ten-by-ten-by-ten (10 x 10 x 10) matrix and might be visualized as a cube. Each cube then contains 1,000 possible exit points. Each cube may then be attached to another cube. The limit of ten parents and ten children for each parent is arbitrary and is limited only by the telephone service provider's ability to implement the matrix within their equipment. However, since multiple cubes may be connected, there is no theoretical limit to the number of connections possible. Once an exit point is selected by a system user, the exit point from the matrix is connected to an internal toll-free number assigned to the system owner by the telephone service provider. The system owner then assigns the internal toll-free number to an external telephone number through a call forwarding feature. The system owner may change this telephone number at any time through direct access. The external telephone number may point to an LEC that then connects the system user to another telephone system provider's toll-free number.

The number of levels and hence the number of possible switches can be any number desired. This feature enables customization within any given classification scheme. It is merely a matter of how the system owner wishes to connect the levels of the hierarchy and the number of switches needed to satisfy the application.

A system user is prompted to select an option and then prompted for another at the next level of the hierarchy of options until arriving at a point of exit from the system to a connection with the selected network. As an example of a possible implementation, the hierarchy may alternatively be traversed using a series of Internet web pages and, once locating a desired vendor, a call could be placed to the vendor by-passing the telephony hierarchy and connecting directly through the internal toll-free switch. Once a system user's connection with the external network is concluded, the system user may then press a combination of buttons (e.g., "#1 ") or exit the telephony portion of the system and interact with the system hierarchy through a variety of terminal devices.

As an illustration of an implementation of this method, the logical steps are shown in Figure 4. Figure 4 is a flow chart illustrating how the selection of options by the system user results in the system functionality. The system may be accessed using a variety of terminal devices, step 1. The system user may select from a list of options presented in a manner suitable to the terminal device, step 2. Step 3 is a logical system decision to determine whether the system user has selected the hierarchy terminal point or not. If the terminal point has been reached, the system dials the internal toll-free number and the system user is connected to the selected network through the associated routing, step 4. If the terminal point has not been reached, the system user may select a different level within the hierarchy or not, step 5. If the system user selects another position within the hierarchy, the system user repeats the steps beginning with step 2. In step 8, the system checks to determine if the user is in telephony mode or not. If the system user is not in telephony mode, the system provides the system user the opportunity to switch to telephony, step 7. If the user was in the telephony mode, step 8, then the system user may select to exit the system or change to a different level within the hierarchy (now in the telephony mode), step 10. If in step 7 the system user elected to switch to the telephony mode, the system connects the system user to the telephony hierarchy at the level corresponding to the system user's present position within the hierarchy. If in step 7 the system user elects not to move to the telephony mode, the system user is passed to step 10 and may exit the system, step 1 1 , or move to another level within the hierarchy, step 2.

As a feature of the present invention, the system owner has full, near real time control of the assignment of external telephone numbers assigned to each internal toll-free number acting as a switch. This feature adds great flexibility for the system owner in the management and assignment or reassignment of external system connections. Additionally, the various option hierarchies are mimicked between platforms to allow connecting the system user to a desired termination point from the hierarchy. The hierarchy of options is under the control and management of the system owner.

ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE

The purpose of the invention is to provide direct telephony connection between a system user and a selectee forwarding location from a variety of terminal devices connecting through a telephony network to a variety of terminal devices. The method provides the system owner direct control and management of the arrangement and depth of a hierarchically structured group of options selectable by the system user and provides for the system owner to directly manage termination telephone connections without an intermediary telephone system provider technician. The termination to the system user-selected forwarding location might be to a merchant, a provider of a product or service or other termination as designated by the system owner. The method includes the connection of terminal devices capable of communicating through a public or private telephone system. The method employs mixed media and includes input terminal devices capable of manipulating Internet web pages, hand-held RF-based devices communicating over the Internet, RF-based devices communicating over other networks, voice over IP systems, and conventional rotary and dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) telephony terminal devices using interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities.

The system owner contracts for a group of toll-free numbers for which the system owner is charged a rate established by the telephone system provider. It is the system owner that determines the rate charged to businesses for connecting system users to the business's telephone number. The group of internal toll-free numbers assigned to the system owner and incorporated within the system allows the system owner to rapidly reconfigure the outgoing telephone numbers without long delays waiting in queue for the telephone service provider to modify or reconfigure the telephone switch connection to a different telephone number. System management of the telephone connections and rates is under the exclusive control of the system owner rather than the telephone service provider. The arrangement of each level within the hierarchy of user-selectable options remains under control of the system owner. The system owner maintains the ability to adjust the user- selectable options on all system databases including those supporting the Internet, other networks, and telephony hierarchies that are included within the system.

The use of a group of internal toll-free numbers incorporated into the telephony portion of the system and acting as internal system switches allows the system owner a dynamic system management capability not previously available over public switched networks. Using dial-in or Internet access capabilities, the system owner may reassign the internal toll-free number to another external number or adjust the IVR hierarchy of user- selectable options using a secure Internet link provided by the public telephone system provider. This provides the system owner the control and flexibility necessary to manage business operations that are not subject to lengthy waiting periods. As a result, the system owner can adjust the telephony portion of the system whenever appropriate from a business perspective.

The system incorporates the ability to connect a user through an IVR system to a local exchange carrier (LEC) switch and then to another telephone system provider's toll-free network. This capability provides the system owner with direct management control and enables the system to connect between toll-free numbers assigned by multiple telephone system providers.

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Classifications
Classification internationaleH04M3/58, H04Q7/22
Classification coopérativeH04M2215/62, H04M15/08, H04M3/58
Classification européenneH04M15/08, H04M3/58
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