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I hate being on hold on the phone. I always feel obligated to keep my hand on my phone, and I have a chronic fear that I’ll finally make it off hold the second I put my phone down.
Well, it looks like there’s an online service that will finally assuage those fears called Fastcustomer. It’s ridiculously simple — a user just visits the website, types in a company and types in their phone number. After a few minutes, which they would otherwise spend on hold listening to bad elevator music, the user will get a call that will put them on-line with the customer service representative immediately.
The company also has an iPhone application that does about the same thing with a different interface. The application has a list of companies that the user can select. They tap the company and can then close the application and wait for the call to come. The application landed on the Apple App Store late last month. An Android application is on the way as soon as the company finds an Android developer, according to a post on Y Combinator’s news aggregator Hacker News.
The service on the website is free to use. The company said it has been on hold for more than 15,000 minutes, “because WE LOVES HOLDING,” according to its website. It uses Twilio, a telephony application programming interface (API) that gives developers a way to interact with dial tones and phone functions through programs.
The average person is typically on hold for more than 50 hours each year trying to resolve any number of problems, according to the company. That number seems a bit high, but I know I’ve felt at least a touch of rage listening to that infuriating elevator music.
The service is similar to Knockknock, a company funded by Dave McClure’s Twilio Startup Fund. But Knockknock users have to call into the service and record the name of the company and the department they want to get in touch with, rather than using an online form or an application. Knockknock is still in private beta, as well.
It does seem like a service like this is ripe for abuse — such as some bored kid on the Internet getting companies to call random people. So far, the company doesn’t have any plans to counteract that abuse — the team wants to see how the problem evolves and how to handle it in the future, they said in a post on Hacker News. But Fastcustomer is definitely something I plan on using the next time I have to get in touch with a customer service rep. Even if it is just to play a few extra minutes of Minecraft or a game on my Nintendo DS.
VentureBeat’s VB Insight team is studying email marketing tools.
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