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Customer Service Can Be a Great Calling

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Tim McElligottWhy I don’t live in San Diego I’ll never know. People who live there tell me it’s not just some place you visit. Once you’re there, you’re hooked. But I am convinced that I would likely tire of the monotonous perfection of the weather. The rolling hills and ocean cliffs would soon have me yearning for the featureless, wind-swept pizza crust known as Illinois, no doubt.

Oh I am sure this paradise has its flaws — many of them were sleeping on the street — but I’m as good at turning a blind eye as the next person and found the city and its surrounding communities quite agreeable last week when I paid a short visit to GreatCall, a mobile virtual network operator that serves primarily seniors with easy-to-use communications and mobile safety devices. Think Jitterbug (the phone) — that’s GreatCall. Think Jitterbug (the dance) — that’s GreatCall’s demographic, soon to be replaced by the swell of Baby Boomers. Not a bad business plan.

But GreatCall is more than the Jitterbug phone and is trying with all of its marketing might to make that distinction. The company created 5Star Urgent Response, a feature that uses a single button for connecting to a team of Certified Response Agents who identify the caller and his or her location, then are able to either conference in family or friends, help dispatch 9-1-1 emergency services, access a nurse, or provide any additional assistance, if needed. They also created an app called MedCoach that helps users track their usage of medications.

These humanitarian-based products help the people who support them view their work a little differently from most of us who frame our labor as serving the technology or the business. It allows them to join the ranks of doctors, nurses, social workers, good teachers, firefighters, police officers and other first responders who at the end of the day get to go home knowing that, as Emerson said, “one life has breathed easier" because they did their jobs. They are able to forget when they need to that they work at a for-profit enterprise like more of the rest of us.

The interesting thing about the folks at GreatCall is that this reality extends to even non-customer-facing employees, those who deal with the same system, process and network frustrations as workers at other mobile providers. They still have to deal with budgets and bosses and profit margins and vendors and interoperability and intercarrier compensation and the fickle behavior of high speed networking equipment — all the things that churn the acids in the stomachs of others or raise their blood pressure. Then they picture Grandma lying on the laundry room floor but know help is on its way because they provided the technology and service to make it happen.

In an OnSite report next month, B/OSS will take a closer look at how that technology is supported and how that customer care is delivered. Be on the lookout, but rest assured that like MedCoach, we will send you a friendly reminder when it’s posted.

You can email me at tmcelligott@vpico.com or click on the comment button below. If you’ve fallen and can’t get up, call 9-1-1. Then go out and get yourself a Jitterbug.

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