Monday, 16 June 2008

Talking to the man - Gethuman

I was at lunch on Friday, when the conversation turned to Customer service. We talked for a while about call centre outsourcing, Orange’s decision to move their call centres back to the UK (or at least shift some customer service resource back) and First Direct and their consistently good call handling performance.

I hate call centres. I worked in one for a year with Norwich Union which, whilst I was there, got moved from the top floor, with a view of the castle, to a site overlooking a run down car park. View not withstanding, I hate call centres, being in them and calling them.

Which is why when one of the American’s around the table piped up and asked whether we’d seen get was delighted to learn that I hadn’t and that it’s great. is a very simple database of every big company you’d ever want to phone, and instructions on how to get straight through to an actual human operator! Brilliant.

Now, I’ve got no idea how they keep it up to date – I can only image it being fairly labour intensive.

Behind their database there’s a ‘Gethuman Standard’, which sets out the various rules a company should adhere to in order to be user friendly (for example – The caller must always be able to dial 0 or say ‘operator’ to queue for a human).

My only initial concern is that, if the site’s not (up to date), and I need to speak to someone at about it… will I get straight through? – I’ll wait to see if they come back to my e-mailed request on that one.

There are a few interesting points here.

First in a homogenous market, customer service is a key differentiating factor. Outsourcing your call centres, or making them overly reliant on recorded messaging may seem like a smart move for the bottom line, but if they start to erode your business, it’s a false economy (the Orange model).

Next it is clearly great that consumers are empowering themselves to get what they want, rather than what corporations say they want (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that ‘the service has been scaled down for my convenience.’). And it’s an equally great thing that the internet allows us all to do this.

Lastly, there’s a nice little blog at the end of the site, allowing us to chip in and let them know about the service we’ve received at the hands of various corporations.

Right I’m off to talk to someone at Norwich Union (now of course Aviva), not that I need to you understand. I can though. So I’m going to.

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