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Dial 1 for Sales, 3 For Accounts Or 4 To Be Ignored

in: Sales
on September 22nd, 2010

Most of us detest the automated call handling machines which take us through a series of menu options before we are allowed to speak to a human. Having just telephoned a UK Building Society’s main enquiry number, I had to get through 4 stages before I could speak to a human. Some car service businesses process all the service bookings through a large call centre which covers many dealerships and multiple car makes. Their inability to understand my car and its foibles – or to connect me to the local service manager means that I now deal with their smaller competitors.

And then there are the companies who expect you to understand their organisation and its internal terminology before they will connect you.

Advantage SME

This is where small businesses have a major advantage. The simplest business, of just one person (for example) only has one telephone number (plus a mobile) and one person to speak to. If you call the owner, any reasonable query can be resolved in one simple step. As your business grows, it will be tempting to make use of technology to route calls and to save the administrative overhead of using a receptionist to direct incoming calls to the right people. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the implementation is done from the customers’ perspective – and you make it easy for people.

One local Intruder Alarm maintenance business has an auto-attendant. Their letters say “Ring us on 0XXX 123 4567 and select option 2 to book a service visit” – I do not need to listen to the prompt or to understand their business – because they use the technology but they also think about me (the customer) and my inability to patiently listen to a long prompt.

Customers First

The ideal call centre is populated with sufficient people to handle every enquiry without a queue building up, all highly skilled in every business aspect and with access to all the business systems. Sadly, for most businesses this ideal is not affordable – which leads to compromises.

As your business grows and you start to make compromises in call handling – make sure you think about things from the customer perspective. Try to avoid automated call processing unless you plan it properly and can make sure that customers find life easier with the automation than without it.

Worst Case

If you get these things wrong, there are three possibilities:

  • Customers go to competitors;

  • Customers stay with you but press any key to get to a person and then your precious sales resource has to route calls to other parts of the business;

  • Customers stay with you, but resent your lack of care – so they defect when they get a chance.

Best Case

Your systems and people work together properly to ensure that your customers and prospects get the kind of service that will keep them loyal to your business. And they go on to tell other people about how responsive your business is.

This was a guest post by Paul Fileman of Results-Zone. Results-Zone bring extensive knowledge and experience gained in Blue Chip organisations to businesses like yours. They ensure that your business is fully exploiting a well thought through operating plan. They work alongside you and your team – as business results managers. They ensure that your team and your business are elevated to the results-zone. They bring you “hands-on” experience – similar to employing high quality management skills without the risk or costs in recruiting full time employees.

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  • 1

    Great blog post. As a telecoms VAR I shudder every time one of my clients starts talking about multiple tiered auto attendants. We look at what they’re trying to achieve and eliminate the AA altogether in most cases.

    One area businesses should also consider is how clients communicate with field based/mobile staff. Do you really want to distribute mobile numbers, switchboard numbers and a DDI number to your clients? Why should they have to ring potential 3 numbers to get hold of you?

    At Unitycomm we practice what we preach and use single numbers which will find us no matter what device we’re using -phone, softphone, mobile etc.

    It’s all about being connected as quickly and efficiently as possible. This not only improves your business agility and performance but clients perception of you significantly improves.

    Simon on September 22nd, 2010
  • 2

    Unfortunately this scenario doesn’t just apply to the good old telephone. Have you tried to contact someone on a website recently.

    First you have to enter your query, the system then tries to find the answer and throws up some half prepared FAQ’s none of which are relevant to your query. Unbelievably some end your customer assistance at that point.

    Take for instance the great eBay. I’m sure there must be people who work there, but you try and get hold someone to speak to.

    All I ever get are pre-written standard email replies and then they have the cheek to ask me how I rate their replies. They don’t have a tick box with the reply I want to give them.

    David Gordon on September 28th, 2010


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