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Hook Me Up With A Human

Oh, what has happened to the carbon-based organizational interface? Many organizations have digitized humans ? aka carbon-based units - out of existence in their customer service operations. Now, I love digital technology as much as anyone, but it is time to bring the people back into their appropriate customer service roles, don't you think?

Have you ever tried to reach a human at Amazon.com? When I last checked you couldn't even find a telephone number on the website. Just to annoy them, here is their toll free number: 800-201-7575.

Many organizations don't even have a live person answering phones. They dump you directly into voicemail. If this happens to you, punch "0" immediately. Some systems are programmed to ignore the first three "0s" so keep punching. This almost always gets you to a sentient being. OK, sentient may be a little strong. At least they are breathing. Sometimes if you hit the * key, you'll be sent to the company directory.

The Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Business reports that in a recent survey of 1,000 people about customer service "can't find a human" was at the top of the list of things participants disliked. The study further showed that calling a toll free number was still the preferred method of reaching a company, but more people are turning to the web because no one appears to be home at the phone.

The society has published an online directory containing a lot of contact information for many top companies. Here is the link: http://www.consumeraction.gov/corpormain.shtml. Use it frequently.

Here are a few other tips for hunting down a human. Try using the Whois directory at http://www.networksolutions.com/en_US/whois/index.jhtml. However, truly cunning companies have removed their contact information from there, too.

Companies which continue to shirk their responsibility to their customers eventually will pay. Customer retention rates will spiral downward and new business will dry up. At least, I keep telling myself this will happen to these bad PR poster children.

If you call me, unless I'm on fire or talking with a client, I'll answer my phone. And, if I somehow miss your call, it won't take me 24 hours to get back to you. It's bad PR - and inhuman - to do anything less.

Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR, http://www.hoover-ink.com. He has 26 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Brent Dees Financial Planning, Levolor, New World Mortgage, North Carolina Tourism, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, VELUX and Verbatim.

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