Looking for a customer service service
January 16, 2018 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Is there a service that will call customer service numbers for me, deal with all their crap, and let me know the results? Maps through IVR menus only solve a small part (<5%) of my problem. Details below the fold.

I spent half an hour that I didn't have in the middle of a workday the other week trying to get CenturyLink to send me a label to return a modem I don't need any more, after sending three emails requesting it and waiting ten days without anything showing up. It occurred to me that there may be some way to have someone else deal with this sort of thing for me, but I can't seem to find such a service--does anyone know of anything like this, or of places I could try?

Before you mention them, I've seen and used services like GetHuman, DialAHuman, FastCustomer, and the like, but they don't fulfill my requirements:
  • I'm still stuck either going through the algorithm they give to get through the IVR, or waiting for a call back from the service (which often doesn't come at all).
  • It's not GetSmartHuman or DialACompetentHuman or FastCustomerServiceThatGivesADamn. That is, even if I get to a human, it's often the wrong human, or one unwilling or unable to help me, and boom, back to the hold queue.
  • I have to explain my situation from the beginning every time I talk with someone new, which gets tedious quickly.
What I'm looking for is a service where I can explain my current situation and what I need once to one person, that person fights it out with the customer service people, and they send me the results and a link where I can download a sound file of the call. Being able to get in touch via email would also be nice.

Remembering this article on Slate about using a "virtual assistant" service is what gave me this idea, but the author described the experience as "a disaster," and the article is nearly five years old. I've looked into services like AskSunday and Fancy Hands, but they all seem like they're targeted at people who need someone to help them do things like shopping or booking flights rather than this kind of high-involvement request--the sort of thing that I can and would do on the website. A lot of the sites also give off the plasticky stench of SEO, which doesn't give me any confidence in their operators' competence.

Also, sometimes the customer service department I'm calling is for a healthcare provider or insurer. My employer has an advocacy service for helping with this, which sounds like it'd be great, but I've used it several times and I'd give them a C- at best. The form you use to get in touch with them complains about "special characters" like dashes and apostrophes, even when they're in the body of the message, they refuse to reply to anywhere except my work email, so I'm stuck with sending medical stuff through that and can't get at it outside the office, they often completely fail to address one or more of my concerns, and the response times are on the order of a week. Bottom line, 3/10 would not recommend; would appreciate more responsiveness and competence.

  • Is there such a thing as what I'm describing? What's it called?
  • How do they deal with acting as the end user's agent when the number is expecting the end user themselves?
  • What sort of protections are there against the various opportunities for nefarious behavior this presents?
  • How's the pricing? Is it per hour, per issue, or something else, and what are the rates?
  • Any experiences, recommendations, caveats, thoughts, ideas, suggestions?
I'm in the US, as are the numbers for the organizations I need to call, but I'm happy to work with services worldwide as long as they can make their hours line up with the numbers' availability. Thanks!
posted by tellumo to Shopping (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
experiences, recommendations, caveats, thoughts, ideas, suggestions?

As a part time PC fixit guy I quite regularly do battle with internet service providers, telcos and equipment vendors on behalf of my customers, and the single biggest obstacle I can anticipate to you achieving what you want is that every customer service rep will need some way to be sure that the person they're talking to has something to do with you and is not just some troublemaking rando. Typically they will at least need to speak to you for long enough to extract some kind of ID and permission for your advocate to act on your behalf. So I'm not sure your set-and-forget model is going to work as you envision it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:34 AM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would love a good answer for this question! I think you might just have to hire a young person you know as your intern. The article you linked is correct that there has to be a level of trust, and also you'd have to reveal quite a bit of personal information to make this work.
posted by Threeve at 8:35 AM on January 17, 2018

If you have TaskRabbit in your area, there might be someone on there who would be a trustworthy helper. They have categories for personal assistants, along with organizers and errand-runners. I would recommend picking someone with good reviews.

(I am not affiliated with the company, have just used them in the past, eponysterical, I know.)

posted by acridrabbit at 8:56 AM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yep, TaskRabbit is your go-to for this. You can also request the same Tasker in the future, so you can have the benefit of context.
posted by janey47 at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2018

When I worked in customer service we would occasionally get calls from assistants, secretaries, and spouses calling on behalf of other customers. For security reasons, we weren’t allowed to assist. They would say they were calling for someone who was too busy but we still couldn’t accept the call. I don’t know how widespread this is in the industry but it may be one reason this isn’t a service that’s readily available.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:30 AM on January 17, 2018

My office includes a call center that will talk to third parties about accounts as long as the account owner has added them as an authorized contact. So, if you had an ad hoc assistant, for example, you could tell Centurylink to add them to your account. Policies will differ by company, but it is not unheard of.
posted by soelo at 11:44 AM on January 17, 2018

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