When interfacing with large numbers of customers, many companies use auto attendants. I like them. If they are used carefully. Many times you just need a trivial piece of information: how many minutes on my cell phone are left, or what are your store hours? But sometimes it is a unique question or problem and some companies drop you into an auto attendant ping pong match. The best systems have a two tier approach. After going through two levels of prompts you can talk to a real live person. And my tolerance level for on-hold music is about 60 seconds. Finally you need to be able to escalate an issue quickly.
Just this week I had two great experiences with customer support. The first was with Zions Bank where I had the person's name but needed a phone number. It took me all of 20 seconds to get through the auto attendant and reach a support person who immediately connected me. This bank understands customer service. Right on the home page is a link to contact the president. And he replies within the day. Now that's impressive.
The second was with TransUnion, the credit reporting agency. A year ago I needed to make a correction on my credit report. I got stuck in a call center for about an hour and was finally given a fax number which was always busy. So after a bit of research I called into the executive suite. He promptly solved my problem and we had a great discussion about escalation procedures. Just last week had the need to call them again. This time I spent about 30 minutes in the India call center, got bumped up to a specialist state side who gave me a special fax number and solved the problem.
This has everything to do with marketing. Every person who touches your customer is responsible for marketing. And the most important message a customer can hear is "We'll take care of that for you." And they do it.