In a case of extreme customer empowerment, Paul English really “started something” last fall when he published a directory of unlisted 1-800 customer service numbers on his blog.
According to The New York Times, following more than one million visitors to his blog in January alone plus appearances on MSNBC, NPR and the BBC, “Mr. English has transformed his righteous indignation into a full-blown crusade.”
He started Get Human, which he calls a grass-roots movement to “change the face of customer service.”
“I’m not anticomputer,” Mr. English explained over lunch near his office in suburban Boston. “I’ve been a programmer for more than 20 years. I’m not anticapitalist. I’m on my fifth start-up. But I am anti-arrogance. Why do the executives who run these call centers think they can decide when I deserve to speak to a human being and when I don’t?”
The Get Human cheat sheet makes for entertaining and mystifying reading. Want to reach an operator at a certain major bank? Just press 0#0#0#0#0#0#. Want to reach an agent at a big dental insurance company? Press 00000, wait through a message, select language, 4, 0. Want to reach a human at a leading consumer electronics retailer? Press 111## and wait through three prompts asking for your home phone number.
It would be funny if it weren’t so depressing and such bad business.
People talk. That’s always been true. But in today’s hyperlinked world, the conversations are logged, and easily called up by anyone, at anytime, via search. Which is to say, all businesses must have near perfect customer service, because whatever problems are unresolved will find their way into the public record.