Sometimes the Way Forward is Backward

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Creativity/Innovation, Customer Service, Planning, Remarkability

Have you heard of the website,  It’s a site that lists ways you can circumvent voice mail jail and get straight to a "real live human being" at major corporations (what a radical idea! Real customer service!). Some of their general rules are as follows.

  1. Interrupt.
    Press 0 (or 0# or #0 or 0* or *0) repeatedly, sometimes quickly.
    Unfortunately the same keystroke does not always work for each
    Many IVRs will connect to a human after a few "invalid entries",
    although some IVRs will hangup. :-(
  2. Talk.
    Say "get human" (or "agent" or "representative") or raise
    your voice
    , or just mumble. :)
    The IVR might connect you to a human after one of these key or
    unknown phrases.
  3. Just hold, pretending you have only an old rotary phone.

They also have a database of corporations on their site where you can look up the company you’re trying to reach and find specific instructions for how to beat the system at that specific company.

But the question you and I ought to be asking is why are so many people going to that site? Why? Because most of us as customers hate having to go through fifteen layers of questions to get a computer to answer our question (or one of my pet peeves is when the computer asks you for your account number and then when you finally get a human being on the line, what is the first question they ask you? Exactly). Cost cutting procedures have their place, but not when it comes to customer service.

In fact, this frustration has become so visceral that Citibank has now based it’s whole strategy for one of it’s cards on  solving this one problem.  Chances are, you’ve probably seen the hilarious ads for the Citi Simplicity card.  After Joe everyman either burns up his kitchen or embarrasses himself on the train while trying to get through to customer service, the Citi Simplicity card ad simply ends with "Press "0" to talk with a live representative—anytime."  Imagine that.  A whole ad campaign based on what ought to be a given common courtesy—the ability to talk with the company that you purchased something from.

Or to put it another way, sometimes the way to be remarkable is to go back in time and provide something that your competitors aren’t . . . like real customer service staffed by real people (not computers) who can actually solve problems.  What ought to be common practice often isn’t.  So, as you look at your company (or organization or church or association or school) is there something that used to be a given in your industry ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago that no one is doing any longer?  If so, is that "something" something that might be a differentiator with your customers?  And if so, is it something that would delight your customers (and cause them to want to be more loyal to you)?

Don’t rush by this concept! It may be a simple one, but Citibank is making a ton of money off of this one simple idea. Remember, sometimes the way forward is backward.

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3 Responses to “Sometimes the Way Forward is Backward”

  1. ruth 20 March 2006 at 8:06 pm #

    And sometimes it did happen many a times to us, when we are glad that someone is there, they won’t be able to answer the question.

  2. Malcolm Munro 21 March 2006 at 9:39 am #

    I agree. I tell my job seeker groups to follow up each interview with a handwritten “Thank You” card. In this era of high tech, low tech can sometimes win the day!
    Malcolm O. Munro

  3. Lawrence Evans 25 March 2006 at 12:32 pm #

    Same goes with ones voice mail messages – one should try to update ones message with today’s date and return ones calls promptly or specify the time of day you will be returning calls. This lets the customer know that you return calls – what a concept!

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