Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

Drawing The Line At Customer Service

A joke has been doing the rounds, and it seems to resolve a long-standing mystery; specifically: what does the word “service” actually mean in the context of phrases like Service Point, Telephone Service, Customer Service and Public Service? It was only when a farmer mentioned that he was having a bull come in to ‘service’ his cows that the whole thing came into perspective.

Joking aside, services that don’t deserve the name are a threat to the economy.  America has transformed itself into a service-driven market.  Service industries account for 68 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and four out of five U.S. jobs. The US has the largest services trade in the world, with exports measured at over $600 billion dollars.  Services supplied overseas by U.S. affiliates accounted for more than another $1 trillion in revenue.  And the trend is for further growth.

Unlike manufacturing, service-based businesses mostly involve direct human contact with the customer.  Which makes it strange that so many companies’ customer service phone lines are engineered to avoid anyone actually talking to a caller.  Customer service? More like a foolproof mechanism for deflecting human contact with your customers, let alone having to satisfy them about anything.

It doesn’t take the massed talents of the Harvard Business School to figure out that hiding behind the voice-recording equivalent of a barbed-wire fence is probably bad for business. How can such foolishness be so widely practiced, by companies whose mission statements formally commit them to “listening to the voice of the consumer”? And how did they plan to do that without ever actually answering the #!^%* phone?

One recipient of 21st-century corporations’ maddening disinclination to talk to people decided to fight back. Entrepreneur Paul M. English lost his rag one hot summer, did some research, and posted an item on his blog. It was in effect a leaked “magic code-book” giving out telephone keypad sequences that would get his fellow-sufferers past various companies’ wall of blather and “options”, putting them through directly to an RHB (or Real Human Being).   English described his site as a crusade against corporate arrogance. “Why do the executives running these call centers think they can decide when I deserve to speak to a human being and when I don’t?”, he reasonably asked. 

The result was electrifying. Visitors to English’s blog added more codes to the ones he had unearthed, and started spreading the word to other people. The result was GetHuman.com, a dedicated website for those who wanted not just to get mad, but to get even ….or perhaps just to get through. A large electronics retailer’ secret code was apparently 111##, followed by ignoring three dummy prompts demanding a home phone number. Reaching an “RHB” at a well-known bank was as simple as dialing 0#0#0#0#0#0#. And so on. The secret call-through pathways of hundreds of companies have now been revealed to their frustrated customers.

Pi says: now that’s a real service!

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: USA / North America Product – Business / Professional