The Investigators: How to Get a Human Being

By Andy Wise - bio | email

(WMC TV) - Forget call centers and toll-free phone numbers.

The way to a real person in customer service these days -- is through Twitter and Facebook.

"It lets them get to know their customers in a way that they never had before," said Emily Yellin, a Memphis-based author on customer service who wrote Your Call is (Not That) Important To Us (,

Savvy consumers are learning to bypass traditional hassles and waits on customer service phone lines and air out their frustrations on company Facebook pages and in mentions on business Twitter feeds.

The point of using social media is a complaint that used to be a private matter between a luckless customer and a faceless agent can now be on public display, especially with complaints fired off on Twitter. The company's CEO, the executive staff -- and everyone who follows the consumer's feed -- are watching.

"It's almost like a marketing channel that's not always positive for the company," said Jordy Leiser, co-founder and CEO of (, an independent company that rates the customer service of online companies. "The companies will be more inclined to act quickly and act on your behalf to help solve that problem because they know it's so public."

Companies who are serious about personal relationships with their customers are starting to grasp the benefits of social media-based customer service.

FedEx staffs service agents like Robin Haskin (Twitter:  @FedExRobin), who handles nearly all of her customer traffic through Twitter.

"Just a (Twitter) mention of 'FedEx,' and I am on the other end, saying, 'Hey, I can help you get that? What can I do for you?'" said Haskin.

Tweeting @FedExRobin gets results more quickly because it's in the public eye.

"Everyone can view it," Haskin said. "So I'm constantly thinking on how they are going to perceive that."

Leiser said there are also independent web sites dedicated to driving consumers directly to a human being in customer service:

* ( reveals companies' phone number short cuts and live chat options.

* ( is a forum site where consumers having similar problems with the same company can do what Leiser calls "crowd sourcing" -- grouping complaints in a grass-roots approach to ping the company and get its attention.

Leiser also recommended a smart phone app:

* Fast Customer (free download) allows consumers to click on an individual company, enter their complaint and contact information, then the company calls them. "So you effectively never have to wait on hold," said Leiser.

Leiser said the time of day is also important in effectively communicating your problem, particularly if you insist on using the phone.

"It's actually the easiest to get a live representative when you call first thing in the morning -- anywhere from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. to reach a live person," he said.

These are the best e-tailers and service companies for getting a live person, according to

  2. Grainger
  3. LL
  5. Nordstrom
  6. Neiman Marcus
  8. Urban Outfitters
  22. 1-800 Contacts

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