Press zero to talk to a human Matt 11 Jan 2006

39 comments Latest by amy

Is Citibank hopping on the simplicity bandwagon with their new Citi Simplicity campaign? Maybe, but I really like how it’s turned “press zero to talk to a human” into a selling point. Yeah, it may cost extra for Citibank to field these calls but it wisely views the added cost as an investment in good customer experiences and a compelling selling point that it can hype in its advertising.


39 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Dan Boland 11 Jan 06

I’ve seen a couple of spots for this. Let’s face it, we’ve all been on the phone listening to the voice read out the menu options and thinking “but my question doesn’t fit any of those.” Essentially, the ads are saying “don’t worry, you can call us and it won’t be a giant pain like it normally is.” It’s smart to use it as a selling point.

Web Man Walking 11 Jan 06

My local bank does not even have an option to speak to a human bean. I found one day that mashing the keys took you to someone who could help. I still don’t know what the combo is but it works!

gwg 11 Jan 06

There have been a number of stories in the national media about the backlash against automated phone systems; additionally, there are a number of increasingly popular web sites with instructions around these automated systems.

From where I sit, Citi is responding (quickly) to the impending backlash as opposed to being forward thinking about it. What’s impressive to me is the speed with which they are responding with this ad campaign.

It is certainly smart, and their commercials make me chuckle.

Dana O 11 Jan 06

While the option to speak with a live person is great — the way Citi is going about it is not. That card isn’t as great as it sounds. If you do make a payment late, you aren’t charged a late fee, but your interest rate shoots way up — causing you to pay more money over time (assuming you have a balance to pay off).

So, it’s not so much that Citi is spending the extra money to have the “live person” option as it is them just finding a way to charge their customers for it. :(

Ara Pehlivanian 11 Jan 06

As much as I’m a techie, I still can’t stand running through the maze of those telephone prompt systems. Unless I really don’t feel like talking to a human and I want to perform a truly mundane task (like checking the amount I owe or something) I usually opt for the human.

They just “get it” better than a computer does.

Sucky Marketing Guy 11 Jan 06

Wait, is Citi Simplicity a separate card? This isn’t a Citi card-wide policy? I have to signup for a new card, JUST to be able to talk to a person by hitting “0”?

Ok, I supposed I agree it’s probably progress if a trillion dollar bank let’s you talk to a human easier than before.

—SM Guy

David Demaree 11 Jan 06

Citibank is really not doing you any favors by helping you talk to a live person, because their quality of service is really, really poor. The operators are poorly trained and even a simple procedure like changing the billing address on a loan account required them to transfer me to three different people. The reps don’t listen to you — they’re very quick to jump to a solution and begin working through a script for that solution, they lack the training to handle a situation that’s outside the scope of their script and also lack the authority to escalate your call to someone who can help you.

It’s not just that their customer support is outsourced to India, but that they’ve buried their support reps in so many layers of bureaucracy and red tape that it’s impossible to do anything but pay your bills and shut up.

Sarah Dawson 11 Jan 06

I just got off the phone with UPS and their voice-recognition menu - I found that if you keep repeating “Talk to a frackin’ human being” as your ‘menu choice’ three or four times, it gives up and sends you to a human.

Why did I need a human? Because the web site’s directions were faulty and I just needed to set my dang package Will-Call. There’s not even an “Other” or “Talk to a Human” option on their phone menu….

Michael 11 Jan 06

I just can’t imagine Citibank keeping things simple. I have never banked with such an inept company in my life. In fact, I’ve never had a problem with a bank until Citibank.

Chris Brogan... 11 Jan 06

Citi is taking the right step. This campaign hits one of the two sweet spots for consumer markets right now: folks about to retire, and retirees. The ad is catchy enough to be good brand placement for folks in other demographics, but the message is really useful to the less-then-@ generation. Maybe there’s a trick here. Maybe the ad is catchy enough that you’ll help your parents and grandparents understand how better to navigate Citi via phone.

Rick 11 Jan 06

It would be even better if they added…
Press “1” to select your personal on hold music
Press “2” to hear how long you will likely be on hold

Jeff Hartman 11 Jan 06

My local bank does not even have an option to speak to a human bean.

Now that’s a freak show. :)

Prophetess 11 Jan 06

…now I’m just waiting for a bank to send out ads saying “Get your money 24/7, no ATM fees.”

…ah, for the good old days!

Rob Sanheim 11 Jan 06

This is a nice geek friendly option. I’m sure the typical geek will not call up their bank for something they know can be done online with a form, like an address change or balance check. I know every time I get some automated system that makes it hard to reach a human, none of the options are what I want and I end up forcing my way to a rep somehow.

Does this apply to all their cards? Also, I wonder if they advertise this option up front when you call in.

Eric Lanehart 11 Jan 06

Ditto David Demaree. Citibank’s 24/7 phone service used to be excellent, until they outsourced to Bombay or wherever the fuck. Everytime I call about a day’s transactions, they can’t even help me, because apparently their records are lagged by a day. Any good customer experience is more likely going to end up being something more along the lines of “what the hell did I get myself into…”

Ruy 11 Jan 06

TD Canada Trust does this also - and it’s great. I don’t think I ever bothered to go through their menu - I just press 0 and get someone who is overly-happy-to-help-me or will transfer me to the right person.

The only thing I don’t like is that they started upselling services at the end of the call - although so far they kept it nice and relevant (you have x$ sitting in your account that could be better off invested - would you like to learn about our GICs?).

Still - TD gets extremely high marks on service from me (they also have great branch operations - open 8 to 8 6 days a week, and still open sunday too).

We briefly used Royal for our business account a while ago - oh horror of horrors.

Greg 11 Jan 06

I think it places a lot of trust in the customer. Remember late last year when Sixapart let customers choose how much compensation they thought they deserved for problems with Typepad? This is similar. I’m willing to use automated functions of an IVR when I have a quick question or inquiry that doesn’t require human interaction. But sometimes, I know I need to speak with a human.

Citibank is saying “we’re offering automated functions for simple answers, but when you know you need to speak with someone, we’ll make that easier.”

Bob 11 Jan 06

I know where the money for this ‘new feature’ is coming from… I missed one payment on a Citibank-powered card (I don’t have this particular card) and as punishment they charged a late fee AND jacked up the interest to 31%.

iTodd 11 Jan 06

big boy…

tk 11 Jan 06

Amen Eric.
And no, this doesn’t apply to all of their cards/accounts - I had to call in for a check they refused (rules changed without letting me know - go figure!) last week, and had to go through 4 rounds of “press X if…” before 0 was an option.
If only they didn’t have such a great Web interface!!

Orangeandbrown 11 Jan 06

Someone, somewhere will just pick up their phone and hit 0 and expect Citi to pick up.

Divya 11 Jan 06

This ad seems so similar to GE ads I have seen in Singapore (for an “ezcash” campaign) - even the typeface is very similar to GE’s - not to mention the colors!

david 12 Jan 06

maybe its different in the US but most phone systems finish their options with “…or hold to speak to an operator” in the UK. Natwest have had the human element as a marketing ploy for years too.

Of course there’s an inverse situation at Dell - ever tried to buy a machine over the phone at Dell via some far away land, broken english and a big big list of acronyms for a sepc and you’ll never do it again - for some things the machine/web is simply better.

ceejayoz 12 Jan 06

Automated phone systems are the bane of my existance. To pay my phone bill:

1 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 3

Even better? The account number is my phone number with “07” tacked on the end. Why do they need that? They’ve already got my phone number, and I highly doubt there are six other people in Rochester with that number!

Oh, and it asks me if I want to use English or Spanish again after I enter my account number. That’s after I’ve gone through eight steps already…

ceejayoz 12 Jan 06

oops - HTML ate my angle brackets…

Automated phone systems are the bane of my existance. To pay my phone bill:

1 2 2 2 -phone num- 1 1 -account num- 1 1 1 1 -cc num- -exp date- -cvs- -zip code- 3

Even better? The account number is my phone number with “07” tacked on the end. Why do they need that? They’ve already got my phone number, and I highly doubt there are six other people in Rochester with that number!

Oh, and it asks me if I want to use English or Spanish again after I enter my account number. That’s after I’ve gone through eight steps already…

Belgand 13 Jan 06

I spent about a year working in customer service for Gateway. While many areas were indeed outsourced out of country (it was all outsourced, they don’t have any in-house customer service or tech support) the absolute worst reps were universally from Ft. Lauderdale. Speaking on behalf of my former co-workers you’re usually much better off with a machine or, if possible, doing it yourself online. The vast majority are incompetent and tend to cause more problems than they ever solve. I’d say at least 50% of the problems I solved were me fixing something simple that someone else had done wrong or that the company was incapable of doing correctly. While the training was very weak the number of people who bothered to pay attention to it were distressingly few and even less tried to learn anything while actually on the job.

In defense of phone menus the entire system was so incredibly bureaucratic that most calls needed to be routed to another department to solve many simple requests as I was not given the authority or the access to resolve them myself. Taking a few minutes to try and work through a menu actually vastly increases your ability to be more quickly connected with the proper department.

Likewise if you know you have a very unorthodox request or are just impatient and somehow think that a poorly trained, unmotivated, minimum-wage person working a job they hate will do a better job of caring about you than an unfeeling and often poorly-worded phone message you can usually hit ‘0’ on the vast majority of phone systems to reach an operator. I frequently had to call other companies to work through things and it was relatively rare that a phone system would not respond to it. In all likelihood Citibank is the same, they’re just now trying to sell this as a feature (a move that will cost them money both for advertising as well as increased call volume, but hey, it’s still a cheap trick).

JFR 13 Jan 06

and they’re all in iNDia.

HOWARD 19 Jan 06


Anonymous Coward 22 Jan 06

I’m a Citicard holder and have been since 1992. I’ve only had one minor problem with customer service in all the years I been with Citicard. I like their products and call frequently to see if I can have my interest rate lowered. They are willing to assist me even if it means closing the Citicard I have at the time of the call and opening a different card. I think that speaks for good customer service. And they have for the most part always been friendly and helpful.

BC 14 Feb 06

I also am a fan of the new advertising campaign. Is there a link where we can view the “Big boy” commercial online? That would be great. Thanks in advance.


Harry Silva 22 Feb 06

Here ya go guys found it :)

this commercial is so funny….my wife lovessssss it

Melarro 17 Mar 06

HAHAHAHA if anyone has a picture of this guy in the commercial or a video I would love to have it. My brother and I laugh about this commercial nearly everyday and text message BIGBOYYYA to each during work all the time. Funny stuff.

amy 06 Aug 06

can anyone give me a link for the commercial with the big guy working out and then starts singing “unbreak my heart”

its by far the best citi bank commercial and i cant find it anywhere.