While credit cards are going increasingly high tech, some merchants are enticing new customers with a retro promise: Call and speak to a human being.
Both Republic Bank and the Chase Sapphire credit card have rolled out commercials bragging that customers can reach a person on the phone with few or no prompts.
Financial service and computer support industries are leading the personal service parade, but other companies are likely to embrace the trend, said Mark Miller, senior director of contact center practice at J.D. Power & Associates.
“If a person answers the phone, customer satisfaction is higher,” Miller said.
For years, the top customer frustration was getting put on hold, said Nancy Friedman, president of The Telephone Doctor in St. Louis, Mo. “But the automated attendant became the number one frustration in 2006 and has remained there ever since,” she said.
The incentives for businesses are considerable: Dollars are lost when customers hang up after trying to scale slippery phone trees.
A J.D. Power survey this year revealed that customers who spoke directly to a representative scored their satisfaction as 835 out of 1,000, compared to 760 for those who encountered an automated system.
It’s no wonder, then, that American Express, known to require a minimum of folderol to reach a rep, ranked No. 1 for four years straight in a J.D. Power survey of credit card consumer satisfaction.
Chase Sapphire customers tend to be happily self-reliant, but when they encounter a problem, they want to speak to someone who can solve it — quickly.
“They want direct access to a real person, so we removed all prompts,” said card general manager Sean O’Reilly.
Nathalie Lopez, 19, of Chelsea, can see the appeal: “I get really annoyed having to go through all that when all I want is a representative,” she said.
Talk to humans
Need help hacking through red tape? Gethuman.com is a website of guerrilla consumerism to help penetrate almost 2,300 sonic bureaucracies.
This Yelp-like compendium carries all the combined knowledge of consumers who have figured out ways to short-circuit the phone trees that have taken root at so many businesses.
Here’s how to directly reach a human being at three popular companies, as verified by amNewYork:
l United Airlines: Dial 800-864-8331 and press 0 three times. Make sure you ignore the prompts.
l AT&T U-Verse: Dial 888-722-9337 and, when prompted, dial 924 #.
l FedEx: Dial 800-247-4747 and say “FedEx International Representative.”