Turn Customer Service on its Head

I came across an unusual app reviewed by Andy Vuong in the Denver Post in the August 15 edition.  The app is called: FastCustomer, and is available for Apple or Android devices.  Why the big deal about a customer service app?  Because it turns a company’s customer service practice on its head.

Instead of waiting online for what seems like hours for a rep to become available, this app’s automated phone system dials the number of the company you’re trying to reach.  When a live person answers, it asks THE COMPANY REP to press 1 to speak to the person calling.  Whoa!

You have to select from the 2,500 numbers listed, but the app apparently includes banks, airlines, utilities and others.  The reviewer tested the app with 4 companies: Costco, Verizon Wireless, Frontier Airlines and DirectTV and the system worked flawlessly 3 out of 4 times.

Think of the time wasted when human capital waits endlessly online.  This short-cut doesn’t waste any human’s time and it’s free!  Isn’t this how technology was supposed to free us to concentrate on the important things in our jobs and lives?

What are the consequences for business customer service departments?  I can foresee that if this app catches on, many people will utilize it, perhaps leading to longer wait times online.  On the plus side it might also mean that companies can drop their endless phone trees which frustrate their customers to no end.  And it might mean that customers will actually have a better attitude when they reach a live customer service rep, rather than taking out their frustration on the overworked company rep on the other end of the phone.

Once again, media and technology are changing the way consumers interact with brands that they buy.  Social media has been a recent example of turning the media equation from a monologue, aimed at broadcasting to potential customers, to an interactive dialog.  With the FastCustomer app, once again media and technology are turning the customer/seller equation and putting the consumer in charge of the interaction.

If I were a marketing manager in a company with long wait times on phone lines, I’d offer this app to all my customers (and potential customers) to improve the experience with my brand.  There are so few companies focused on improving the customer service interaction, that I’d probably get massive publicity and new customers considering my brand just because I actually cared about my customers after the brand purchase transaction.

What’s next in the world of turning the equation of customer/company interaction on it’s head?  How will you anticipate it–or innovate it?

 

 

 

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    2 Comments

    1. Posted August 22, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Thanks for pointing out this app – what an interesting idea, and yet another way the whole customer/company balance is changing. How much will it take to make companies understand that the dreaded 800-number should be an asset and not a cost? I will not buy HP printers because of their awful customer service, and I canceled my (much cheaper) Virgin mobile service in favor of Verizon for the same reason (Verizon is less awful – let’s not get carried away here). Marketing types have a lot to think about, but apps like this, together with the whole barrier-shattering social media paradigm, should be on top of their list.

    2. Posted August 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Frank,
      Thanks for the very thoughtful comment about customers service! Yes, I’ll be using this app, too, and can’t wait to see what other software and attitudes turn the tide of customer service back to the objective of satisfying a customer.
      Mary

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