IVR haters have another choice with FastCustomer


People love to hate, or hate to love, IVRs.

Thank you for calling blah-blah-blah, for sales blah-blah-blah, for billing blah-blah-blah, blah blah blah blah blah.

By this time you’ve probably already pressed the zero key on the dial pad in an attempt to speak with a live body. After all, the shortest distance between a customer and customer service is zero.

A few other companies have already exploited our love/hate relationship with the IVR: LucyPhone and Fonolo. Now there’s another app for that: FastCustomer.

With FastCustomer, you can use the website or install the iPhone (sorry, no Android or BlackBerry yet) app to reach a customer service representative without having to “stay on the line.” Come on, who wants to stay on the line anymore unless it’s in a life or death emergency. That’s so old school, especially when monthly minutes are limited. FastCustomer will let you pick the company, dial the number (bonus: it displays whether the company’s service department is open or closed), and call you back at a number of your choosing when an agent is on the other end of the line.

I tested the iPhone app and found that it performed as advertised. I picked a couple of companies to call, and in each instance got connected to a call when the agent was available. After picking the company to call I was able to exit the app and do whatever I needed to on my iPhone. The voice quality was good — just like any normal phone call on my iPhone.

Although FastCustomer keeps track of customer service business hours, it merely displays a “Closed” tag if it’s outside of business hours. Ideally the app could also display the actual business hours so the user can know when to make the next call.

I also found some quirks when canceling a call. Cancel works well if you’re still at the post-select screen with the big “Cancel this call” button. However, once you leave that screen and try to cancel a call at the “Recents” list, it was hit and miss for me. And if you happen to have cleared the recent list of calls, then there appears to be no way of canceling a call.

The app costs $0.99 and as of this writing there are 11 ratings (4.5 stars out of 5) in the iTunes App Store. The latest version 1.0.1 came out just March 14. Comparatively, LucyPhone came out in September 2010 and is free with about 150 reviews, and Fonolo came out in November 2010 and also free to download with over 200 reviews. In order for FastCustomer to gain fast traction it may need to rethink its pricing/marketing strategy in the face of two more popular competitors.

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