An early mentor of mine said the most important person in any organization is the receptionist. Just as the parking garage is the first impression of a driving destination, the first impression for someone calling a business is the person (or robot) answering the phone. And we all know how infuriating that can be.
I love the instant call-back systems at amazon.com and apple.com, among others. In the customer service sections of their websites, just type in your phone number and within about 10 seconds, a customer service rep is ringing you back.
Calling a doctor’s office recently to schedule an appointment, I became mired in a hopeless loop in a system that simply was flawed. There was no way to the right place due to a glitch that kept landing at the main menu. (Speaking of doctor’s offices, does everyone really need to take lunch and shut phones down from 12 to 1 p.m., just when most working people have the chance to squeeze in a call to make an appointment?)
Try calling your own business. Does the phone system work? How’s the hold music? Does a real person respond? If not, why? Does everyone take lunch at the same time, abandoning phone customers to voicemail?
If your after-hours voicemail message says your office opens at 9:00 a.m., guess what a customer who hears it at 9:05 thinks? I love the approach at Nordstrom: Their doors always open about 10 minutes before their posted store hours begin. Things are quite different at competitive retail outlets where early-bird shoppers often wait outside locked doors past opening time.
I recently read about a real estate company that increased business dramatically just by having the receptionist add a positive comment about the agent with whom a caller would be connected. As in, “I’m going to connect you with John Doe. John is this region’s most experienced commercial real estate agent. I know he’ll have answers for you.”
Frustration with phone call holding is such a prevalent problem, new services are cropping up to address it. Free apps like FastCustomer and LucyPhone will wait on hold for you and ring back when a rep gets on the line. If you try it, let us know.