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Your Amazon Echo Can Help You Call 911 in an Emergency

By Dmitry Maslov|Thursday May 2, 2019

What do you do if you can’t get to the phone during an emergency? After a fall or stroke, a phone on the other side of the room could be useless.

With the prevalence of voice-activated smart assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, you could use a simple voice command to get help.

The ability to use Alexa to call 911 has countless untold applications. In one reported incident in New Mexico, a domestic violence event was thwarted because the victim was able to scream for Alexa to get help.

However, Amazon’s Alexa isn’t able to automatically access 911, the nationwide emergency number. One way to make 911 calls using Alexa is to pair your Amazon Echo with Ooma Telo. Learn about how you can use Ooma-Alexa integration to make voice-activated emergency calls.

using Alexa to call 911

Why Can’t Alexa Call 911 By Itself?

The Amazon Echo smart speaker can provide a tremendous amount of information and access through straightforward voice commands. Alexa can look up the weather forecast, start your Spotify playlist, change the temperature on your smart thermostat, and so much more.

Yet, when it comes to making an emergency phone call, the Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon Echo and other smart assistants don’t have the native ability to call 911.

This limitation is due to several emergency-access communication regulations including the need for a registered home location, a callback number, and the required monthly 911 surcharge.

However, using your Amazon Echo device with Ooma’s smart home phone service can help you access advanced 911 service through Alexa.

How Can You Use Ooma to Make 911 Calls with Alexa?

After setting up your Ooma-Alexa integration, you’ll be able to say:

“Alexa, ask Ooma to call 911.”

Ooma’s communications platform has been providing 911 access to customers for years. Using Alexa-Ooma integration can give you the voice control of Alexa with the emergency access of Ooma.

As one Ooma customer shared, “The day happened that I needed emergency services and Ooma was right there. It may have saved a life. Thank you for having a great E911 system and great service.”

What Happens When You Make a 911 Calls Using Ooma?

Whether you’re using Ooma to call 911 on a home phone, on Ooma’s free mobile app, or via Alexa, Ooma provides the same advanced emergency access technology.

  • Emergency 911 calls made with Ooma are connected to local dispatchers rather than a national call center. This helps you to speak with someone who could be familiar with your neighborhood or the nearby first responders.
  • Ooma also automatically transmits your registered home address so dispatchers can know your location even if you’re unable to speak after initially asking Alexa for help.
  • Additionally, Ooma’s 911 Alerts can automatically notify a secondary phone number if a 911 call is placed from an Ooma account. For example, a family member can be alerted if an elderly relative calls 911 or if the new babysitter has an emergency.

What’s Required to Dial 911 Using Alexa?

call 911 Amazon Echo Ooma

Three pieces of hardware are needed to make a 911 call using Alexa:

  • The Amazon Echo is the smart speaker that you’re probably already using with your Alexa virtual assistant.
  • The Amazon Echo Connect is an accessory device to the Amazon Echo. Plugging the Echo Connect into your Amazon Echo allows you to create a bridge from your Ooma Telo to your Alexa-enabled phone system.
  • The Ooma Telo is the communications hardware that powers Ooma’s low-cost home phone service and the smart security system.

With your devices in hand, you’re ready to start making voice-activated phone calls on your Ooma account. There’s no lengthy setup process, and all you have to do is download Ooma’s Alexa skill.

All three pieces of equipment can be purchased as an Echo Connect package. Alternatively, each device can be purchased individually based on what you need to get started with making hands-free voice calls.

How Does Ooma-Alexa Integration Work?

When your Ooma phone service is integrated with Alexa using the Echo Connect, you’ll have the voice-activated functionality to make hands-free calls 911 calls. Additionally, you can use it to dial a phone number, call someone on your contact list, and perform other Alexa commands to use Ooma hands-free.

What Ooma Phone Service Packages Are Needed?

After purchasing the Ooma Telo, there are two tiers of residential service available. Both options offer full 911 access, and both allow you to integrate Ooma and Alexa.

Ooma Basic Service is the ultimate low-cost phone plan. It includes unlimited U.S. calls and many features, such as call waiting, caller ID, remote voicemail access, call logs, call hold, and more. There’s a low monthly cost of about $4 to $7 to cover the taxes and fees required for your ZIP code, and you can use Ooma’s savings calculator to see exactly how much you could save.

Ooma Premier Service provides the latest calling technology. On top of what’s included in Ooma Basic Service, Premier includes the ability to block unwanted robocalls, full mobile access via Ooma’s app, and more smart home integrations. Plus, unlimited calling is expanded to include numbers in Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Calling 911 with Alexa May Be Better Than Using Your Cell Phone

There are long-standing problems with calling 911 from a cell phone. However, only about 11 percent of the population has a full understanding of why emergency calls made from a cell phone are different.

Because cell phone calls typically have no other functional differences, it’s easy to assume that calling 911 would also be the same. However, the infrastructure of 911 emergency services isn’t necessarily built to accommodate cellular technology. The infrastructure varies by location, and in places such as Washington D.C., the ability for 911 dispatchers to accurately know the location of a cell phone caller is as low as 10 percent.

Ooma is a VoIP service that transmits all calls over the internet, including emergency 911 calls. However, Ooma’s 911 tools automatically provide the home location info that’s crucial for emergency calls. Even when a 911 call is initiated through Alexa, Ooma’s 911 services will be working in the background so you can deal with the situation at hand.

Learn more about residential phone service, as well as how you can use Alexa to make calls.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.