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How do you call Kayak's mysterious red telephone?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 21, 2010 09:25 AM

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I enjoyed this "The Way I Work" piece from the February issue of Inc. Magazine, featuring Paul English, co-founder of the travel search site Kayak. In it, he talks about an old school red telephone he set up in Kayak's Concord office to take customer calls:

    About a year ago, I bought a red telephone with a really loud ringer for the office. Whenever a customer calls the help number on our website, that phone rings. The engineers initially complained about it. They said, "That's so friggin' annoying!" And I'd say, "There's a really simple solution: Answer the friggin' phone and do whatever it takes to make that customer happy. Then hang up, unplug the phone, walk it down to the other end of the office, and plug it in down there."

    It's like hot potato. Except I take it seriously. When the phone rings, I literally jump over the desks just so I can get to the phone before anyone else. I love talking to customers, even angry ones. I learn a lot from them about how to make the site easier to use. When the call's over, I'll say, "If you have any follow-up questions, my name is Paul English; I'm the co-founder of the company."

Great concept.

But here's my question: where is this "help number" on Kayak's Web site? 

Here's Kayak's feedback form (no phone number). Here's the "contact us" page, which includes a phone number for Kayak's Connecticut headquarters, but not the Concord technology office that English runs, or anything labeled a "help number."

I called the Connecticut number this morning at 9:15 AM, and the voicemail system there gives out the 978 number for Kayak's Concord office. When you dial that number, you either need to know the name or extension of the person you're trying to reach; there is no option for "getting help with the Web site." You can dial 0 for an operator. But then, you get a busy signal.

Perhaps this is a red phone that doesn't ring very much... 

(And the busy signal when you press 0 is ironic, given that English started the Web site Gethuman, which publishes tricks on how you can reach a human being at big companies like Bank of America, Amazon, and Dell tech support.)

Post a comment if you can figure out how to dial this help number...

[ UPDATE: English explains here that the phone number shows up on the site's feedback page about 30 percent of the time. ]

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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