The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

‘gethuman’ standard and some thoughts on customer service is a fascinating concept bringing together technology and human interaction in a useful way.  Its not clear if this site is still being maintained, and it does make it clear that its free and volunteer, but the concept is fascinating. (hat tip Tara)

The concept is to list large companies and a phone number or instructions to ensure you get through to a human on the phone.

The need to create such a site speaks volumes. 

The gethuman standard is a specification for how customer service phone systems and support should work. The gethuman standard will improve the phone systems of any organization that complies, making the customer service experience for consumers easier, more effective and more efficient.

See the latest gethuman 500 to see how each company was graded based on the gethuman standard.

Source: gethuman standard

Why is it that in this day and age, with technology so apparently prevalent, that this kind of site resonates so well with people,.  Consider when you talk to your friends about their customer service matters, and they have a serious problem, everyone wants to talk to a person.

That ultimate need to talk to someone will never actually disappear, but the intermediate steps are the pieces where I am interested. 

The changes we have experienced that insert help/ hindrance for customer service, are clear when we compare back to 1977, when everything was simple.  But the technology that began with call centres really only became consequential in the last 10 years for telephone with IVR/ VRU systems, and internet in the last 5 years.  ( The web has been around longer but for the average consumer its really a 21st century thing).

During that period Banks like many, realised the potential to reduce costs, by migration of customer activities to self service.  We have departments of people seeking to both automate as much as possible as well as improve the customer experience along the way.  The result is an enormous array of potential bottlenecks, and opportunities for error by the customer as they navigate web sites and phone systems.

To further complicate matters, corporations realise the importance of “revenue” and “sales” so realising that they have these captive self service customers, why not sell to them while we have them there, captive in our environment!

[Sidenote:  if that picture doesn’t make the case to re-think marketing, then nothing will]

This is a recipe for disaster if done badly, and most do it badly.  To pick on another industry, try the site for a telco, any telco.  Invariably they sell, internet, cell, home phone, TV, or a combination thereof.  The options are too many to count, and then with embedded self service, electronic billing, and ‘one bill’ services .. well there is money to be made fixing their problems.

Customer Centric

This is the essence of thinking customer centric.  How does the customer see your company?  Its the antithesis of everything in this Marketing Consortium post (sorry Liz).  Yes, every customer is different, but at this level are they so different.  I interact with people from deep geeks to luddites, and the one thing they all share is frustration with customer service. 

I have been studying “Defensive design for the Web” (37 Signals), a 3 year old book that stands the test of time even more today.

At first glance it appears to focus on error messages, and form errors, but in reality its a simple way to start thinking about every customer process, eliminate the bad things, and implement good ones.  Its laden with screen shots and examples, and has as many thumbs up, as thumbs down.

A couple of examples:

  • etrade – when opening an account, they have a text message saying to wait, and do not click twice, otherwise you will end up with multiple accounts.  Answer:  why not disable the button, and present a ticking clock or something to indicate its underway.  Dead simple.
  • Apple:  replace the 404 screen, with a branded informative page.  This is a great example.

Customers generally have been pretty reasonable, quite willing to take on self service for features that used to be handled by business on their behalf.  But customers did not go to corporation training school, that employees attended.

The point here is that the real opportunity is to eliminate opportunities for customers to be confused, and for customers ‘mistakes’.  This will reduce the need for them to call and be frustrated.  But if they do want to call, realise that its your fault (the corporation) not the customers, so accept the call, and use it to learn to solve the situation in the future.

Relevance to Bankwatch:

Banks are generally quite simple, when compared to other retail operations, such as Amazon, or Telco’s.  Banks have the opportunity to be leaders in simple web tools, eradicated of all errors, and containing simple processes, and customer service feedback, that will attract customers, and engage them in your self service offering.


European site:

ivrhacks – Europe


Written by Colin Henderson

January 13, 2007 at 10:55

4 Responses

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  1. yeah it is funny how 20 years ago we all knew our neighbors and were friends with them… now we rush home, slam the door, and ignore our neighbors… nice to see something bringing the ‘human factor’ back to life.


    January 20, 2007 at 06:27

  2. well said, Paul.


    January 20, 2007 at 21:24

  3. There is also ivrhacks which is a database of US, UK, Australian and Canadian shortcuts to company IVR systems.


    February 15, 2007 at 10:10

  4. Thanks Dave …. added to the post.


    February 16, 2007 at 01:44

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