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A Tech-Support Request: Map Out Phone Trees

I love as much as anybody to complain about tech support -- what else can I do about it most of the time? But for today, I'd like to talk about one way to make it better.

I don't have in mind something crazy like, say, hiring people who actually know the products in question. What I do have in mind would cost nothing more than a few minutes of a Web designer's time: I want companies with phone trees, those "press 2 for technical questions, 3 for sales inquiries" automated gateways, to map them out on their Web sites.

This simple step would address one of my biggest frustrations with calling for help -- having to waste my time listening to some long recitation of all of the different options that have recently changed to serve me better. If I could just look at a simple flow-chart diagram of my options, I'd know to press 1-2-4-0 in succession to reach somebody who can straighten out the second overcharge in two months on my account.

I might also get the sense that this company had a little respect for my time, as opposed to none at all.

The idea makes so much sense that outsiders are already running with it. For example, the "gethuman" site collects shortcuts to reach human operators at various companies. A company called Bringo offers an automated version of that idea; it places the call for you, punches the right buttons in sequence and then calls your phone when a human operator is on the line.

A startup called Fonolo, still in private beta, says it will go even further; it will let you pick a desired department within a company, such as billing or installation help, from an onscreen menu, then dial through to that spot for you.

Do you know of any companies that don't just cultivate phone trees, but document them for the benefit of their customers? Or will we have to wait for third parties to do their work for them?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 23, 2008; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Gripes  
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