Someone swiped Aaron Dragushan’s credit card number, and he was forced to call numerous merchants to give them the replacement number. When he passed 25 minutes waiting on hold for a Comcast rep to pick up, he had an idea: why can’t customers have systems on their side to parallel the ones that companies have?
In other words, why do customers still have to wait on hold when they call a company? The answer turns out to be: they don’t.
Aaron and Paul Singh launched a website and app called FastCustomer. Here’s how they describe the service:
FastCustomer will call customer service for you, press whatever buttons are needed to reach the right department and then wait on hold for as long as it takes. When we have a real person on the line ready to help you, we’ll call you.
What created the opportunity for two guys to start a business with potentially widespread appeal? The fact that almost none of the thousands of companies keeping millions of customers on hold have implemented a service that calls back customers as soon as a rep frees up.
To be specific, FastCustomer calls the specific department you need, presses all the right buttons, and waits for a rep to answer. The rep then hears this message, “For your next customer, press 1.” When the rep responds, FastCustomer calls you (while the rep waits patiently.)
Think about Aaron’s insight: the idea of customer systems to parallel those possessed by companies. What if…
- Customers could send sales offers to companies, instead of vice versa?
- Customers managed their own transaction data, keeping it private and sharing as they choose?
- Customers checked the credit ratings – and satisfaction ratings – of banks and other vendors?
- Customer service and tech support became private services of far higher quality than those offered by companies? This would offer all sorts of opportunities to disintermediate a company from its customers.
These sort of innovations are inevitable. Firms will no longer be able to treat customers like passive sheep, making them wait in endless lines or accept mediocre service. The challenge for established firms is to adapt to rapidly changing customer expectations, and to start thinking much differently about customer experience and innovation.