IBJNews

WEB REVIEW: On hold? Try one of these options to get through faster

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Jim Cota

There must be someone out there who loves Muzak or there wouldn’t be a channel for it on Sirius. But if you are like the rest of us—those who, according to research done a few years ago, waste 60 million hours a year on hold—you must wonder if there could be something better to do with that time than listen to instrumental versions of Simon and Garfunkel.

As it turns out, there is.

Get Human (gethuman.com) began in 2005 as a Web-based database of customer service information and phone numbers for companies. The name was derived from the shortcuts that help you cut through the phone tree to talk to a real person. And that’s what Get Human does. Having trouble finding a person to talk to at Facebook or United Airlines or John Deere? Just type in the company and Get Human will try to find it.

Over time, Get Human grew into a company sustained by the businesses that pay to be a part of the directory. It now offers a Web version, mobile apps, and a call-back service. For the end-users, all these options are completely free.

The call-back service happens to be where a Get Human competitor has placed its bets. FastCustomer (fastcustomer.com) has an iPhone app, a browser extension, and a text option built around freeing you from the phone tree for good.

The idea is simple and the app is nearly perfect. All you have to do is find the name of the company you want to call and click the “have someone call me” button. Then, while you’re doing something else, the application calls the company, navigates the phone tree, and finally gets a person on the line. When it does, your phone rings.

While waiting for the app to get someone on the phone, you’re prompted to tell FastCustomer (by tapping little face icons) your mood. They also follow up the call by asking again. Using this information, they are able to relate the success of the experience back to the businesses with recommendations to improve their customer service.

The browser extension is also a nice touch. Once installed, it lights up when you arrive on a website that is listed in its database and has an open call center. Just click the button to get connected. Once someone picks up, the service calls you on your phone.

Or you can simply text the information to FastCustomer. Just send a text message with the name of the company you want to talk with and wait for your phone to ring. If you have a new iPhone 4S with Siri, you can create a contact for FastCustomer and let Siri do the rest. Just say, “Text [company name] to FastCustomer.”

Lucy (lucyphone.com) works in (mostly) the same way. You can use either its website or its app (it also has a version for the Android), or just text the name of the company you want to call. In the case of Lucy, the service will call you first and then connect with the company. If you get put on hold, you enter ** and hang up. Lucy calls you back when a person is on the line.

While all these apps do everything advertised and are completely free, I prefer FastCustomer. Since it’s primarily built around the call-back feature, the application is pared down to the essentials and is drop-dead simple to use. If you opt for the Web interface instead, it also offers an easy menu of phone numbers listed for each company and an instant call option.

Just think: 60 million hours wasted on hold. Imagine the productivity gains we could realize if just a marginal percentage of us switched to one of these time-saving services.

On the other hand, it seems likely those hours would simply be transferred to Facebook or Twitter. But still, that’s got to be better than listening to the pan flute version of “Stairway to Heaven.”•

__________

Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Awesomely thorough review!
    Thanks for the detailed review of these apps, Jim! As co-founder of FastCustomer, I'm especially excited to read your "drop-dead simple to use" description of us. We're obsessive about removing the friction from calling customer service, so simplicity of user experience is key. Thanks again!

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am a Lyft driver who is a licensed CDL professional driver. ALL Lyft drivers take pride in providing quality service to the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, and we take the safety of our passengers and the public seriously.(passengers are required to put seat belts on when they get in our cars) We do go through background checks, driving records are checked as are the personal cars we drive, (these are OUR private cars we use) Unlike taxi cabs and their drivers Lyft (and yes Uber) provide passengers with a clean car inside and out, a friendly and courteous driver, and who is dressed appropriately and is groomed appropriately. I go so far as to offer mints, candy and/or small bottle of water to the my customers. It's a mutual respect between driver and passenger. With Best Regards

  2. to be the big fish in the little pond of IRL midwest racin' when yer up against Racin' Gardner

  3. In the first sentance "As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss are build quality & price." need a way to edit

  4. As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss is build quality & price. First none of these places is worth $1100 for a one bedroom. Downtown Carmel or Keystone at the Crossing in Indy. It doesn't matter. All require you to get in your car to get just about anywhere you need to go. I'm in one of the Carmel apartments now where after just 2.5 short years one of the kitchen cabinet doors is crooked and lawn and property maintenance seems to be lacking my old Indianapolis apartment which cost $300 less. This is one of the new star apartments. As they keep building throughout the area "deals" will start popping up creating shoppers. If your property is falling apart after year 3 what will it look like after year 5 or 10??? Why would one stay here if they could move to a new Broad Ripple in 2 to 3 years or another part of the Far Northside?? The complexes aren't going to let the "poor" move in without local permission so that's not that problem, but it the occupancy rate drops suddenly because the "Young" people moved back to Indy then look out.

  5. Why are you so concerned about Ace hardware? I don't understand why anyone goes there! Every time ive gone in the past, they don't have what I need and I end up going to the big box stores. I understand the service aspect and that they try to be helpful but if they are going to survive I think they might need to carry more specialty parts.

ADVERTISEMENT