Microsoft backs GetHuman customer service plan

Initiative is designed to set industrywide standards for customer service; companies can advertise compliance.

Microsoft will work with consumer support advocate on the creation of new standards for better customer service industrywide.

The draft standards, announced by GetHuman founder Paul English on Tuesday at the SpeechTEK conference in New York, aim to eliminate woes caused by automated service on telephone-based customer support systems. English, who also founded travel search site, has proposed a plan that includes giving the option to wait for live support, ensuring that customers will not have to repeat information that they have already given, and allowing them to rate the quality of the experience afterward.

Several companies, including Microsoft and speech recognition software company Nuance Communications, are voicing their support for GetHuman's mission and are helping craft the standards.

Community feedback on the project will be accepted for 60 days before the final set of standards is released. Then, if the initiative goes as planned, companies will be able to advertise as a GetHuman-compliant business--marked by the "earcon," a set of audio tones that a customer service system can play to let the caller know that it has pledged to adhere to GetHuman standards.

Poor customer service has been a high-profile detractor in the rise of consumer tech, with everything from to AOL horror stories making headlines.

Microsoft doesn't always have the brightest track record of customer service either. Just last month, the company stopped providing support or security updates to the more than 50 million people who still use its Windows 98 and Windows Me operating systems. Partnering with the GetHuman project to advocate better-quality customer service could also help the software megalith as it tries to revamp itself.

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