Bring Back the Live Telephone Operator … and Boost Your Customer Service.

When was the last time you called a large company and had a live person answer the phone?

It seems impossible, but that actually happened to me when I called a large company that I do business with. The last time I phoned them, I just had to ask the operator, “Why have you switched back to having live operators answer the phone?”

phone support

The woman, Lisa Marie, replied, “To better serve our customers. We often found they didn’t know which selection to choose. But it takes me only a few moments to direct them to the right service representative.”

I asked how many people they had answering the phone, and she said, “Dozens.”

Wow! Now there’s a way for any business to differentiate itself from the competition!

When you are having a problem, it sure is nice to hear a live, friendly voice on the other side of the phone line instead of an ominous warning to “be sure and listen to the complete menu, as it has changed,” followed by a long list of instructions and options.

I especially dislike automated voice answering service when I know the company is a small office.

Once I complained to a small company, which I knew to be sufficiently staffed, about their automated answering service. Why were they using it in such a small office? I was told that it was because they wanted to provide more focused service to the clients who were actually in the office. Apparently, they figured it was okay to waste their clients’ time if they phoned in. But think about that? Why is it okay to penalize a customer because they use the phone? Why not focus on all your clients all the time? Answer the phone and pay attention to your in-person clients.

For a customer who needs something or wants to do business with you, listening to long tedious automated voice messages is not only mind-numbing, but it transfers the cost in time to your customers and if you don’t think they notice — you’re mistaken.

Why not distinguish yourself from the other guy and offer real customer service by having a live, human being answer your phone? All things being equal, if you had a choice between a company you can deal with directly and one that you can’t, which one would you choose?

Of course, I readily admit that automated voice technology has its place. It beats the old days of being put on hold forever — a blinking light in someone’s office. As a consultant who works alone, I use voice mail myself. But it’s important to rethink your system and do whatever you can to minimize its use. For example, I could forward calls to my cell phone when I leave my office so that clients are more likely to reach me personally.

So even when voice automated technology is necessary, be careful not to over use it. Minimize its usage and tear down the barrier between you and your customer.

Remember that large company I mentioned at the top of my article? Well, I wanted to discuss their use of live operators and to give them some kudos in this article. Lisa Marie gave me a number for their Marketing Department and their CEO. I placed several calls but only reached an automated voice promising to get back to me if I would leave my name and number. It’s been more than 24-hours, and I’m still waiting, and they didn’t get the kudos.

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