But I Just Want to Talk to a Human

By Rebecca J. Rosen

Everyone is familiar with this routine: "Agent! Agent!" you shout into your phone. A bot responds, "I'm sorry. I didn't quite catch that. Did you say purchase tickets?" Nooooooo. Add to this the time you'll spend on hold, and you have that special combination that is modern, automated customer service.

Companies know we hate this, but it's too expensive for them to offer better real-human access. For a few select products, real, live humans are now a selling point for consumer products. For example, a new Chase credit card is now offering "a person, not a prompt," immediately available on its customer service for its Sapphire card. No pressing pound repeatedly, no yelling at a robot. 

But Chase is unusual. Most companies bury their human agents underneath layers of choose-your-own-adventure dialing. If you want to find a warm-blooded person, the website gethuman.com keeps tabs on the best numbers, email addresses, and call-back systems for nearly 8,000 companies. Unfortunately, for many of these numbers, you'll still get stuck on hold for a while. 

Our best line of defense against the customer-service robots? More robots. Apps such as FastCustomer and LucyPhone can place calls to customer-service centers, wait on hold for you, and then call you back when an agent is on the line. 

And here are some pictures of how happy costumer-service agents would be, if they could only talk to us:


Image: Ocacia/Shutterstock.

Update 2:01 pm: Commenter Lucyphone points out below that they have partnered up with GetHuman, so you can get a call back directly through gethuman.com.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/12/but-i-just-want-to-talk-to-a-human/249564/