Monday, February 27, 2006

Customer Service - The Sound of Silence

gethuman online store :

"I want companies to wake up and ask themselves, 'How did we ever let it get this bad?' " Paul English, founder,

Big corporations want to be our friends. Watch their ads, listen to their jingles, read their annual reports and you'd think all they want is to make us happy.

Well, they do want our money of course. And our loyalty. But if we have a question or complaint, apparently they want us to shut the hell up.

How else to explain the outrageously bad state of customer service in corporate America today? Calling a big company for assistance can take upwards of 30-60 minutes as we slog through voicemail menus and spend time on hold -- only to reach ill-trained, often surly representatives in the end.

Quality personal service used to be the lifeblood of consumer oriented businesses. But lately it seems major commercial corporations have surgically removed any semblance of heart where the consumer is concerned.

Corporations seem to go out of their way to make it hard for consumers to reach them for help. It's so counter-intuitive and counter-productive, you have to wonder who's running their Call Centers -- Chimps? Idiots? No. Worse. Computers. And bean counters.

Supposedly it's more cost effective to use artificial intelligence and outsourced, low paid Third World employees to manage consumer complaints. Maybe in the short term. But alienating consumers is incredibly short-sighted over the long term, especially in generating loyalty, retention and referrals.

A customer who calls a company's service center is already having a problem with a product or service. Why would that company want to turn him away--and piss him off even more--right from the start?

But that's exactly what they do. Massive menu'd voicemail. Robotically friendly computer-generated voices, "Okay. Let me see if I got that." They never get it, and you find yourself shouting into the phone at a computer.

Then there are the English-as-a-second-language operators who may be trying hard, but force us to say, 'What?' 'Huh?' 'Sorry, I can't understand you' over and over.

It's frustrating. It's time-consuming. It's downright infuriating. I don't know anyone--and I bet you don't either--who doesn't have a customer service nightmare to share. And what does this mean to corporate America? That they're dreaming if they think they'll get away with insulting their customers forever.

A rebellion is at hand. Led by a man named Paul M. English who created the website to help consumers reach live human beings in corporate customer service. And to let corporations know we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more. is the group behind those lists recently circulating on the Internet of secret codes to bypass computerized voicemail and reach live customer service reps. They're now compiled into gethuman's online database, which is growing daily.

GetHuman is also setting itself up as a consumer advocacy center. Not just to find codes to break out of voicemail jail. But to rally consumers to report companies for bad behavior. And maybe bring about some much needed change.

You never know. But as my grandmother used to say, 'Couldn't hurt.'

Corporations say their computer-generated and outsourced customer service is a logical cost cutting move. I say it's just plain stupid to ignore the most important contributors to the bottom line -- their own very human customer base.



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