As I was coming back from my doctor’s office today, I got to thinking what could be done to improve the customer service experience, especially regarding voice mail systems. This is what I came up with.
LET ME SELECT WHAT I NEED
Your options have not recently changed if you can’t remember the last time you redid your message. If I know I need number 2, 3, 1, or 0, let me press it. Do not make me sit there while you rattle on. It’s an inexcusable imposition on my time and patience.
Moreover, everyone is familiar with voice mail. It’s not new technology. We know to listen until we hear the option we need. We are not stupid.
My time is as valuable to me as yours is to you. Don’t waste it.
DON’T BURY THE LEAD
Whatever your organization does, make sure the first choice in your list is the thing most of your customers want. It probably is not your address, business hours, website address, or the opportunity to hear about your new services — or take a survey.
If you are a personal service provider — doctor, dentist, veterinarian, massage therapist, hired assassin — scheduling should be on top. At least half your calls will be people who need to make, change, or cancel (or some combination of these) an appointment. Don’t send us to a sub menu with more options. Answer the damned phone.
If you are a utility — cell service, telephone company, ISP, power company, water — why do think most people call? Because your service isn’t working. No power, no water, no cell service, no dial tone. No WiFi. No cable. Do not tell us to use the website. If we could get to the website, we would not be calling you.
Whoever picks up the call must be able to reply to this: “Is this a general outage or is it me?”
- If the former: When do you expect service to be restored?
- If the latter, transfer the caller to tech support. Don’t ask us to make another call.
IT DOESN’T WORK
Number 2 should be Technical support. Of course. Something isn’t working or isn’t working as it should. Have a human being answer the phone. Even if it involves waiting, don’t make your already upset and angry customer wade through another set of prompts. Take responsibility. Be a person.
ABOUT THAT BILL
Number 3? They want to talk about the bill. Which they already paid, can’t pay, shouldn’t have to pay, is actually someone else’s. If you put them into another voice mail system, it will might make them angry enough to dump you for another provider.
They do not want to leave a message for someone to ignore and never call back. They want to straighten out what they hope is a simple misunderstanding. If you send them to more voice mail or an answering machine — and you don’t return the call immediately — expect to never get your money or lose our business. I have dumped providers at the first opportunity many times and I will do it again. If you aggravate me enough, I will hold it against you. Forever. And I will tell everyone why.
This is business. I am a paying customer. Act like you care.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
I hear so many companies complaining how bad business is. Never do I hear them wonder if their own action (or inaction) might have something to do with it. Maybe the problem is how badly you treat your customers.
Consider this: Maltreating customers does not endear you to them. If they can, they will go elsewhere. At the first opportunity, they will drop you so fast you won’t have a chance to say “Hey wait, I’ve got a deal for you.”
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine got the option of using FIOS instead of Warner Cable. FIOS was a bit more expensive and had a slightly smaller offering, at least back then. She changed services anyway. She said: “I hate Warner so much, I’d happily pay more to anyone else just to be rid of them.”
I feel that same way about our cable provider. They think they are invulnerable because we currently have no choice, but eventually, we will have a choice. It’s only a matter of time. The ill-will they are amassing now will ultimately bury them. It’s a cautionary tale for all corporations who think they “own” the market — and the customers.
Talk to your customers. Be nice to them. Make them feel valued. Calm them down rather than throwing gasoline on the fire. If you are in a service industry, provide service. It’s what we are paying for.