August 8, 2006 7:49 AM PDT

Microsoft backs GetHuman customer service plan

Microsoft will work with consumer support advocate on the creation of new standards for better customer service industrywide.

The draft standards, announced by GetHuman founder Paul English on Tuesday at the SpeechTEK conference in New York, aim to eliminate woes caused by automated service on telephone-based customer support systems. English, who also founded travel search site, has proposed a plan that includes giving the option to wait for live support, ensuring that customers will not have to repeat information that they have already given, and allowing them to rate the quality of the experience afterward.

Several companies, including Microsoft and speech recognition software company Nuance Communications, are voicing their support for GetHuman's mission and are helping craft the standards.

Community feedback on the project will be accepted for 60 days before the final set of standards is released. Then, if the initiative goes as planned, companies will be able to advertise as a GetHuman-compliant business--marked by the "earcon," a set of audio tones that a customer service system can play to let the caller know that it has pledged to adhere to GetHuman standards.

Poor customer service has been a high-profile detractor in the rise of consumer tech, with everything from asleep-on-the-job cable repairmen to AOL horror stories making headlines.

Microsoft doesn't always have the brightest track record of customer service either. Just last month, the company stopped providing support or security updates to the more than 50 million people who still use its Windows 98 and Windows Me operating systems. Partnering with the GetHuman project to advocate better-quality customer service could also help the software megalith as it tries to revamp itself.

See more CNET content tagged:
customer service, standards, Microsoft Corp., Microsoft Windows


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Thank god
At last, someone has realized how bad phone-support is these days.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
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Not sure what good that will do
Not sure what good that will do, I still will not be able to understand the persons English that answers my call!
Posted by bmo99 (2 comments )
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Wonderful News!! How do we help?
My first question is how do we help and get our input to Microsoft and the other companies?

How do we get companies like ABIT, ASUS, Check Point, CISCO, Dell, EMC, Gigabyte, HP, Symantec (the worst of the bunch in my view), and other large compaanies to participate?

Geezer Guy
Posted by alkolkin (11 comments )
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with your pocketbook
the article does a good job providing a high-level overview, but this basically comes down to agreeing on standard and acceptable menu-trees for call center automation, especially to avoid common issues such as cycles where a customer ends up going in circles through menu options they've already navigated.

Basically, lots of companies cobble together their call systems without spending much time thinking about how an already pissed-off customer will react when they're asked to input information and then asked for the same information immediately by the first person they reach.

Ideally all companies would use the standard as a template for designing the menu trees, but it is possible to imagine different tiers of standards compliance leading to something a company could market (e.g. "support systems meet VMX 2.0 compliance"). Given that most companies want to avoid spending any money on support, this is at least a relatively low-cost way to improve things.
Posted by Hardrada (359 comments )
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