Friday, September 4, 2009

Take Back the Beep: Customers Call for Action

David Pogue's "Take back the beep" campaign has been around for a month now, as I write this. The New York Times tech columnist started the campaign to get the big wireless companies to stop giving those "time-wasting, redundant, airtime-eating, 15-second recorded instructions that you hear every time you leave a message for someone." There's a big-as-life website at takebackthebeep.org.

AT&T replied that it's making changes; Sprint replied with details on how customers can turn off the recorded instructions; T-Mobile said all the feedback had gotten its attention. And Verizon said very little, as of Aug. 13, according to Pogue.

Searching for "take back the beep" on Google, I found more than 860,000 hits. No, I didn't read every hit, but I did browse the first few pages. Pogue has definitely struck a nerve. I found a Fox News story about how to get rid of the instructions; a Gizmodo blog saying that Pogue's campaign was having an effect; many--many!--blog entries from people who supported the campaign; even a T-Mobile forum entry and a Sprint community page inviting comments.

Here's the bottom line: Companies crow about crowdsourcing (some say they're inviting customers to "co-design" goods and services) but when they get clear feedback, they don't always know what to do with it. Pogue's campaign was a grass-roots call for action from an unusually high-profile customer. It led to a Groundswell (yes, just like the book) of support from other customers. Calling all wireless carriers: This calls for action, right now. Take back the beep!

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