Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Really Easy Phone System

So you say that your phone system really makes it easier for your customers? It is time to come clean. Most likely your phone system is only for your convenience not your customers. What is my proof? I just came across Get Human. They have a a list of 500 companies that they grade on the ease of their phone systems, the phone number to reach them and they also tell you what you need to press to speak to a human.

As they describe themselves on their website;"The gethuman project is a consumer movement to improve the quality of phone support in the US. This free website is run by volunteers and is powered by over one million consumers who demand high quality phone support from the companies that they use."

Do you really think that you can afford to ignore one million consumers.

Here are some tips, from my article Getting Out of the Phone Loop, to make your phone system more consumer friendly:

Make it easy to contact your company
Have your phone number clearly displayed on everything: all printed and electronic media, receipts, your email signature line, on magnets, notepads and anything else your customers may keep. List your phone information in online directories, yellow pages, etc.

Some other things that make contacting your company easy are a toll free number to make it affordable for your customers to contact you at any time, if you use phone words, include both the spelling and the numeric equivalent.

Make it easy to talk to a human
Don’t make your customers search for a method to talk to a living, breathing person. If you have an automated phone system, it can be extremely frustrating and impossible to get in touch with a human being. Consider reducing the number of prompts in your system. One set of prompts is the limit for most people’s patience and goodwill. If you absolutely, positively must have more than one set of prompts, make sure to offer your customers the option of speaking to an operator in the first and subsequent series of prompts.

Make it easy for your customer to reach the person they need
Have employees take ownership of every call. If they can answer a question without transferring, have them go ahead and answer. If the caller needs to talk to someone else in the company, have the person who has answered the call tell the customer that they are going to be transferred, making sure they have given the caller the correct number in the event the caller gets disconnected or “lost” in the system. If at all possible, try to get a system that allows your employees to stay on the phone with the customer until the transfer is made.

As in any other business situation, have the employee introduce the caller to the person they are being transferred to. The employee should provide a brief recap of the customer’s needs and or questions before politely saying goodbye to the customer.

Make it easy to be on hold
30 seconds doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Phone time is different than regular time. When you are waiting for someone to help you, 30 seconds can seem like an eternity. If your people have to place a caller on hold, make sure that they check back every 30 seconds to update the customer and/or give them the option of being called back. Don’t ask the customer to call back, instead offer to call them back. Calling back your customer is a way of acknowledging that you know their time is important and you appreciate their patience.

If you utilize music for the on hold time, make sure that it is consistent with the image of your business. A better idea is to play information tapes that tell your customer about your business or give them some ideas to improve their life or business.

Make it easy to have a voice mail returned
If a customer leaves a voice mail message, they expect to get a call back quickly. Have your employees change their voice mail message each day. If they need to be out of the office, or if they are unable to return messages that day, their message should not only indicate that, but should also have the number or extension of a person who could be contacted immediately.

Sometimes (often) we are unaware of just how difficult and frustrating it can be to talk to a human at our own business. If you think you have an easy system, try it out yourself. Have friends and family members try it. Ask your employees to give it a try. Have them tell you what the easiest part of their experience was, as well as which parts were frustrating. Then fix the problems immediately. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to do business with you.

If you would like a copy of the article "Getting Out of the Phone Loop" email me at

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Yeah, this is 100% right on the money. There's a company here in Texas that actually helps companies with this exact problem. They do phone systems for San Antonio specifically but they are starting to branch out to some of the large companies. They've got several case studies on their site that actually discuss how improving the way that the customer interacts with the phone system actually makes the representatives more productive. I guess that the way it works out is that when the client calls in they are happier and then the representatives job is easier and they're able to get more done. Amazing