Column by Craig Crossman of Computer AmericaI love technology. I embrace it. Technology makes my life so much easier. I can’t imagine my life without a personal computer, cell phone, GPS navigation in my car, satellite TV, digital camera, the list is a very long one. But even I, who writes and talks about technology for a living, will agree that there are some technologies that should die and when I say “die,” I mean die hard and fast. One of those technologies is the phone tree.

Think about when you last picked up the phone to call a credit card company or an airline or a bank or some other service orientated company about some pressing issue. You’re calling that company because more than likely you need to speak to someone about a problem you are having such as a questionable charge on your credit card statement or trying to make a plane reservation or you want to speak to a bank teller for clarification on some banking service. In most of these cases your time is limited and you need to get some answers quickly. You know what needs to be asked and most of the time, a simple response will get you the answer to your question. But when you call, you don’t get a person. You get a phone tree.

A phone tree is one of those automated voices that says something like “Thank you for calling the XYZ Company. Your call is VERY important to us. Please select from the following 9 options. Please make sure you listen to the entire menu because our options have recently changed.” (That last statement is there to instill doubt. They just want you to listen to the entire menu even if you recently called and know what you pressed the last time. I hate them for this.)

To continue, you finally hear the option you want and press it. You are then presented with a sub-menu of choices. “Please select one of the following 7 items.” You listen and then make another selection. You then hear “Please select from the following 6 options” and so it continues. It is somewhere around the third sub-menu that your mounting frustration makes you either give up and slam down the phone, start pressing random phone keys in hopes that you will be taken out of the phone tree and be connected to a live person that can actually help you, or when you finally do reach a live person you discover that you now have to wait because calls are taken in the order that they were received and that your estimated time to wait is around 17 minutes. It’s usually at this point you either contemplate suicide or wish the person who invented the phone tree would die a slow and agonizing death. In any case, when you do finally speak to a live person, you have to swallow your tongue least you make a comment you may regret later on. There must be a better way to quickly get to a live person on the phone and now thanks to Bringo, there is.

BringoWhen you go to the Bringo website, you first find the company you want to call. Bringo lists them alphabetically or by category such as credit card, health care, etc. Bringo has a growing list of over 800 companies so far.
After you find it you enter in your phone number. This is so the Bringo website can call you back once a live person at that organization is reached. Bringo assures that this will never be given out to anyone and I believe this to be the case. After entering your number, Bringo offers an option to remember it so that the next time it will already be there for you. Now all you have to do is click on the big blue Fetch button.

The first time, Bringo will dial your number to make sure it is yours. When you answer your phone, an automated voice tells you to press the pound sign to confirm this is in fact your phone number. From then on you don’t have to go through that step ever again. This is in place for added security. On the Bringo website, you see a simple display that says “YOU” and the status of the call being made to the company. Beneath that you see the company’s name you are calling. A status display lets you know what Bringo is doing to navigate the company’s phone tree. Finally when Bringo gets a live person, it calls your phone back and a pleasant voice tells you to press the pound key to be connected to a live person at the company. Press it and you’re speaking to a live person from that company. Amazing.

I tried Bringo several times calling different companies and every time it got me through to a live person who could help me in a matter of moments. Life is good once more.

At the very end, Bringo shows a screen that asks if it worked for you and to type in any comments. This helps the good people at Bringo further fine tune the necessary navigation needed to circumvent the phone tree and get you to a live person. This effort by Bringo’s users along with a quarterly maintenance update by Bringo helps insure that the phone tree navigation is accurate since companies typically change their phone trees for one reason or another. Using Bringo is a free service and works with any computer with Internet access and a web browser.

Bringo in my humble opinion is a wonderful service and their efforts deserve the highest praise from any of us who have been subjected to the inhumane torture of having to deal with phone trees. Now you can once again reach out and touch someone.

www.nophonetrees.com

About Craig Crossman

Craig Crossman is a McClatchy-Tribune newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He also hosts the nation’s longest running nationally syndicated radio talk show on computers and technology, Computer America, heard on both the Business TalkRadio Network® and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network®, weeknights at 10PM Eastern time. Visit his website at http://www.computeramerica.com

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This column was released on December 3, 2007. Links have been added by TigerDirect News Editors. This column was originally released on Computer America’s Column Archives.