There are times when your customers are going to need to call you. And it’s possible that there’s no way around it. The customer’s question could be complex or hard to explain via email or web contact form. Maybe they have already tried contacting you via other methods, but either they’re not getting the point across or they don’t understand what you’ve told them. It could be any number of things. When they contact you via phone, you have the opportunity to shine – or shame yourself. Which will it be?
We all have nightmare tales about endless phone trees, waiting for an eternity to talk to someone, getting cut off before you have a chance to state your case. It’s frustrating. No one wants to be treated like a number or faceless entity. They just want someone to help!
Once upon a time I worked at a major university. It was my job to field student questions about, well, anything. When they didn’t know where to direct their question, they came to us. You see, I answered questions that came in via the student web site. And once they figured out that they got a response from us no matter what, they contacted us first.
While it could be frustrating when students emailed us for everything under the sun, we didn’t tell them that wasn’t our area. We got them to the right person, made sure they knew we were handing them off, and then checked back to make sure everything was resolved. And we gave them our phone number so they could call us, especially if the back-and-forth of email wasn’t working.
I even gave out my direct line. Surprised? I had a boss that emphasized customer service. We didn’t let one phone call or email go unanswered. That was what we were there for. We worked hard on our branding and wanted our response time to be part of that.
You need to do the same for your customers. Let them call you. Give out your company phone number and let your customers contact you. I can understand the need for phone trees on occasion so you can route calls to the right person. But almost every person I’ve ever talked to about customer service and calling companies absolutely hates phone trees beyond “press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish.” So think about that before setting up a long and intricate phone tree. Try to keep it to minimal sub-menus.
The longer you make the customer wait to speak to someone, the more frustrated they will be. Think about it. If you keep them on hold for more than five minutes, what does that say to your customer? It says that you don’t value their time. And no one wants to be told that their time isn’t important. We all have things to do, and waiting on the phone isn’t one of them. I had to make some calls today and by the time I was done, I was convinced that trying to make important calls could easily be a full-time job.
If you do have a phone tree or a wait time longer than five minutes, be sure you are making up for it once you get the customer on the call. Really listen to them and do everything you can to resolve their issue, answer their questions and make for a stellar experience. They will be so surprised that they will let other people know how pleasant it was to talk to you. And that can go a long way toward gaining you new business.