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Brothers develop program to assist companies with customer service, keep callers happy

Posted: September 8, 2010 6:39 p.m.
Updated: September 9, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Entrepreneurial brothers Mike Oristian, left, 37, and Tom Oristian, 30, developed a free call-back service allowing consumers to drive positive customer-service experiences. Entrepreneurial brothers Mike Oristian, left, 37, and Tom Oristian, 30, developed a free call-back service allowing consumers to drive positive customer-service experiences.
Entrepreneurial brothers Mike Oristian, left, 37, and Tom Oristian, 30, developed a free call-back service allowing consumers to drive positive customer-service experiences.

Late at night, in a dimly lit parking lot by LAX, the anxious mother awaited her young daughter’s missing plane.

Technically, the plane wasn’t missing. But in the time it took her to drive from the Santa Clarita Valley to Los Angeles International Airport, the flight arrival time had dramatically changed. She no longer had an idea when her daughter’s plane would arrive, or the cause of the delay.

Prerecorded flight-arrival information on the airline’s customer-service phone line was maddeningly outdated. The 40-minute call-holding time precluded her from notifying other family members as to why she and her daughter weren’t en route home.

It’s for just this type of situation that LucyPhone was developed. Its customer-to-business model, developed by entrepreneurs and brothers Mike Oristian, 37, and Tom Oristian, 30, could revolutionize the call-center industry by allowing consumers to dictate how long they will wait on hold to speak to a company’s customer-service department, allowing them to take a place on a call-back list instead.

While the service would have aided the anxious mother by allowing her to phone family at home, it could just as easily apply to a busy pediatrician’s office, where a slew of phone calls come in right after school lets out.

With LucyPhone, callers merely reserve space in a company’s call-holding queue and wait for the company to call them back. No more waiting on hold.

Public access to the service was launched March 10 after LucyPhone beta tested the service last fall.

On July 8, an iPhone application was released, with 60,000 downloads by the end of the month. In less than four weeks, LucyPhone was averaging 20,000 calls per week.

“The concept originated with us being frustrated as consumers calling customer service centers,” said Tom Oristian, co-founder. “We thought there must be a better way to connect and so we developed an opportunity to resolve the frustration for all consumers.”

Holding queues
The majority of existing systems today place customer calls in call-waiting queues, which can result in lengthy hold times and delays in reaching an agent in a reasonable amount of time.

On a scale of 1-10, failure to get a human being on a customer service line ranked 8.6 in aggravation for consumers, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey cited by the New York Times.

A more recent technology developed this decade, Virtual Hold Technology, allows callers to be placed in a virtual holding queue where the system collects the customer’s name and phone number, calling the customer back in the same amount of time as the estimated wait time.

LucyPhone puts the service in the hand of every consumer, free of charge.

Consumer friendly, LucyPhone offers a directory of companies in a drop-down menu. The consumer can also add a company name and toll-free number to the database online. The service is free of charge to the consumer, and the company is contacted by the customer by his or her choice.

Callers go online with LucyPhone, selecting the company they wish to call. Customers then enter the phone number they wish to be called back at.

At that moment, LucyPhone calls the specific call-back number to begin the connection process between the caller and the intended customer-service department.

Upon connection, the customer selects the service options he or she desires such as billing, reservations or customer service.

Upon entering the company’s call-center holding queue, the caller is free to hang up and await a call back when a company representative is available to actually take the call.

Once a customer-service rep is available, the agent hears, “Wait for (caller’s name),” and LucyPhone immediately dials the customer’s contact number. In essence, LucyPhone brokers the call for consumers.

Voila, the no-hold customer-service call.

Culture change
In a distinctive twist, companies are now holding for customer calls as opposed to leaving consumers hanging on the line for interminable periods. Customers can drive change in the wait-and-hold culture that frustrates so many consumers.

LucyPhone changes the customer-interaction dynamic by allowing consumers to utilize the firm’s version of a call-back system with any company of the caller’s choice.

“Business is growing fast,” said Mike Oristian. “LucyPhone is facilitating the demand, on behalf of consumers, for businesses to improve their service models. It’s demand by the customers, for the customers.”

The free service puts the tools for achieving good customer service into the hands of the consumers.

Bridging consumer gap
As LucyPhone is so new, some companies are not waiting for customers to be connected when they hear the “wait for” message. The customer service culture at many companies has been conditioned to expect customers to hang on indefinitely or give up and go away.

However, LucyPhone reaches out to companies to educate them on the service. The firm also contracts with companies to assist them in developing enterprise solutions, which integrate with their call centers and train the staff so customer service reps don’t hang up on consumers.

LucyPhone can apply its technology to any size company. The Oristian brothers said the service can work great for a small business that operates a call-center environment.

“The set-up cost is related to how complex or simple a customer’s needs may be,” said Mike.

“We’ve worked with some high-profile brands,” he said. “But pricing is tied to usage and need, with a very low cost of entry, which is why any size business can profit from the service.”

While the benefits to callers are obvious, LucyPhone says there are also benefits for companies using their firm’s customer-friendly service.

As opposed to staffing for high-call-volume peak periods, a company has the ability to spread its call volume out, allowing the company to staff at basic levels.

Companies save the expense of toll-free minutes used by callers.

And the service can improve both customer and employee satisfaction, reducing employee turnover and high dropped-call rates.

Whatever the scenario, consumers now have a new tool in their arsenal to force companies to be more responsive to their needs, respect their time and provide an enhanced customer-service experience.

Consumers and businesses alike can learn more at


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