On Monday June 28, 2010, 12:16 am EDT
IN a recent Consumer Reports survey about everyday annoyances, with 10 being “annoys you tremendously,” respondents rated the failure to get a human being on a customer service line an 8.6, second only to hidden fees (8.9) and more irritating than spam e-mail (7.5) and inaccurate meteorologists (4.3), which was at the bottom of the list.
A new company, LucyPhone, is offering a solution: when put on hold, users can hang up, and are then called back when a customer service representative finally picks up. On the free service’s Web site, LucyPhone.com, users type in a customer service number (or click on one of many stored on the site), as well as their own. The company also has submitted a free iPhone application to Apple, which it expects to be approved soon.
Founded by Mike Oristian, 36, and his brother Tom, 30, who live in Richmond, Va., LucyPhone has been available since March and been lauded on blogs like Lifehacker and The Consumerist. But LucyPhone still needs to raise its profile, and for that the high-tech, automated start-up is taking a high-tech, automated approach.
It has set up a real-time search of messages sent by Twitter users for phrases like “on hold with,” which are apt to be complaints about customer service. Through its own Twitter account, LucyPhone automatically signs up to follow those users, who, when they notice new followers, often click on their profiles out of curiosity.
On March 14, for instance, Dave Cirilli sent out a Twitter message that read, “Aaaaand that would be THREE HOURS on hold with 1-800-JETBLUE! Okay, @JetBlue, you beat me! You wore me down! I give. Goodnight.”
After later noticing that he was being followed by LucyPhone, Mr. Cirilli, who lives in New York, tried the service. (Then it came full circle: Mr. Cirilli, who it turns out is a partner at Giant Noise, a public relations agency with offices in New York and Austin, approached LucyPhone and was hired to promote the service.)
On LucyPhone.com, meanwhile, under the heading “Angst abounds on Twitter,” a stream of recent Twitter messages appears from frustrated customers. On June 25, for example, there was a message from Twitter user Meadloaf, who was “on hold with the IRS for 28 minutes, when they answered I got so excited that I fumbled the phone and hung up. Start over.”......rest of story