Please Make Your Phone System Even Less
Responsive, I Might Be A Customer!!
Dave Brock, Partners In EXCELLENCE
(Download PDF Version)
I am having an Andy Rooney moment. If
you arenít prepared for a rant, with a message at the end, stop here.
Have you ever had problems navigating the
phone systems of companies you call? The days of reaching a
receptionist or an operator are long gone with most companies.
Automated phone systems, designed to prevent you from ever talking to a
human being seem to be the trend.
Itís the end of a long day of returning
telephone calls, Iím frustrated and angry about the time Iíve wasted.
Like many of us who spend a lot of time on the phone, it is becoming
more and more difficult to reach the person you are calling, even to
leave a message!
Somewhat reluctantly, I am now at peace
with voicemail systems. When they first started becoming pervasive, I
was frustrated at never being able to reach a human. However, now, I
accept them, even find them useful for leaving people quick reports,
updates and messages. I even have to admit that sometimes I time my
calls so that I know I will reach voicemail, sometimes it is preferable
to talk to the machine, rather than directly to individuals.
Now the object of my current
frustration: ďThe Corporate Phone Non-Answering System.Ē I havenít
found who manufactures these systems, however, with their pervasiveness,
I wonder if it is making some of the mainline vendors nervous.
The vendors of these systems have
constructed ways for companies to prevent people from reaching them over
the phone, and their systems are very effectives. When you first call a
company with one of these systems, you first have to wait for ďPress 1
for sales, 2 for customer support, 3 for Accounting-----999 for the dial
by name directory-----or hold for the operator. This is a very
interesting technique, the system gives you the feeling they really want
to connect you with the right person or department because of the number
of options they give you. I actually am coming to believe this is just
another subtle way of having companies tell us ďdonít bother us on the
phone, weíll talk to you when we want to!Ē
However, Iím always conscientious, I
certainly donít want to upset things by pressing the wrong number and
bothering the wrong person. Clearly, people using these systems donít
want calls coming it, they only want to use them for outbound calls.
By the time they have gone through the
list, Iíve forgotten the number I was supposed to press, so I have to go
through it again.
Most of the time, I make the mistake of
trying 99 for the dial by name directory. I listen to the instructions,
always noting which number I have to use for Q and which for Z, even
though I seldom have to use those lettersÖ.Hmmm maybe Iíll try calling
Catherine Zetta-Jones---but does she go by Zetta-Jones, Jones, or even
After I have listened, I make my picks,
spelling out the personís name. It is always difficult. Usually, I am
calling from my mobile, so I have to figure out how to use the key pad,
while still holding the phone close to my ear to see if there is a
response and another number I should hit.
Among the many calls I made today, I
tried 5 people I know, I tried spelling their names, but got the
message: ďName not in the directory,Ē I tried again, after all I am a
bad speller, same thing. Whatís up, Iíve spoken to these people in the
past few days. I thought they were still employed? Maybe itís
managementís new way of saying youíve been laid off, they take you out
of the name directory on the phone system. Interesting new management
Not to worry, I know I can hit ď0Ē and
always get an operator. I try that, get some nice music, wait for an
operatorÖ.nothing happens. I try hitting ď0Ē again, get disconnected,
have to re-dial and go through the entire thing all over. Finally, I
get to the operator option, I hit ď0Ē and wait patiently. This time, I
get a message, ďThe operator is unavailable, please leave a voicemail.Ē
I get ready to leave a voicemail, not
completely trusting it will get to the person I intended it for, then I
get the message: ďThis voicemail box is full and no longer accepting
Frustrated, I slam down the phone and
send an email----I think this is what the company must have intended
anyway. Since they have made it virtually impossible to contact their
people by phone, they either donít want to talk to me or they prefer
But Dave, you say, surely you are
exaggerating--any of you who know me, know that I am prone to a little
exaggeration. Itís Thursday afternoon, this week I have taken a
survey. Of the 90-100 calls I made this week, on 27% of them I was
either unable to reach the person through the dial by name directory, or
I was unable to reach and operator (or leave a message).
So the moral of my story: I donít think
they have designed phone systems that know whether a call is from a
potential customer, and angry customer, a sales person, an investor, an
editor or someone else. So if you really want to talk to these
people---well maybe you donít want sales people, make sure your phone
system works! Find ways to make it as easy as possible for customer to
reach you and give you their money! Donít make them/us struggle to hand
over our hard-earned cash.
If you have to use a name directory, keep
it current, make it the first option of the 999 options that are read.
Whatever you do, make it so that someone can talk to an operator or at
least leave a message.
Consumer products companies use mystery
shoppers to understand their customerís buying experiences. Many
companies try to put themselves in their customersí shoes to learn how
they want to buy from them. Try your phone system on for size
yourself. Call the central number, see if you can get connected to your
number, see if you can leave a voicemail at your number, see if you can
leave a voicemail at the main operator number. If it works, you might
keep or acquire some customers, if it doesnít, think of what you are
saying to anyone that calls in.
This week, 27% of the people I tried to
talk to or leave a message for, were not able to receive my calls. My
only options were their mobiles or email. A good number of those calls
were to people I wanted to speak with about buying their products or
services. Since I wasnít able to reach them, I went somewhere
elseócompanies that you can actually call and ultimately speak to
Well now Iíve vented. Maybe next week, I
write an article about ďcustomer service on- hold queues.Ē After all, I
get bored playing solitaire while waiting hours on hold. I can use that
time for a rant on those systems.
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is the founder and president of Partners In EXCELLENCE. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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