How to answer the phone
'Dear every company in America...' Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Thanks to everyone for the truly fantastic responses to yesterday’s post. I’ll have more to say about it all tomorrow, so please tune in. For today, as they used to say on Monty Python, now for something completely different.
Talking on the phone: it's the worst. But sometimes, when you're trying to get customer service from a big company, there's no substitute for talking with a real person.
Yet, many companies go out of their way to make this difficult. Their goal? I assume it’s to encourage customers to give up, or else to interact with the company in cheaper but less convenient ways.
But I also suspect that even less-malevolent companies might follow some lousy practices, just because it’s become a sort of lowest common denominator industry standard.
So, here's a handy guide for any company setting up its customer service phone responses. Maybe if we all speak with one voice, we can get a few of them to do a few of the following things:
You can't control how quickly calls are routed to you, but you can control how quickly you answer once your system receive the call. If your system takes too long, find another system.
Good: No rings. One at most.
Bad: Two rings. Or more.
Dial '0' for a real person.
Give customers the option to opt out of the whole automated process, by dialing zero. Hell has a special special place for companies that don't allow this option.
Good: "Welcome to Veriz--" (BEEP!) "Connecting to an operator immediately."
Bad: "Welcome to Veriz--" (BEEP!) "That's not an option. Welcome to Veriz--"
List options in order of use to the customer.
When someone is calling to report a problem, they don't want to hear five options about adding additional services before being able to get help.
Good: "Press 1 to report a problem. Press 2 to change your service."
Bad: "Press 1 to order our special offer. Press 2 to add additional services. Press 3 to hear about some other garbage..."
Speed up the voice.
Major pet peeve: Voice recordings that move along slowly, or that take far too many words to get to the point.
Good: "Press 1 to report a problem."
Bad: "If the reason you are calling is to let us know about a problem with your service, good news! You can press 1 to hear a list of commonly reported... blah blah blah."
Skip the sales pitches.
For the love of God, when somebody is calling for service, and is potentially already stressed out, the last thing they want is for you to give them an ineffective hard sell while they're waiting.
Good: "Connecting to an operator."
Bad: "While you're waiting, did you know you can add SOME TOTALLY IRRELEVANT EXTRA SERVICE YOU DON'T WANT to your monthly bill?"
Skip the message about your website.
You have a website?! That's so impressive. Just kidding, literally every person who calls you already knows this. That's probably where they found your phone number.
Good: "You're already here, on the phone, so let's take care of your problem."
Bad: "Did you know you can also find out information about our company by going to our website: double-u, double-u, double-u, dot..."
Get voice recognition that works.
It's 2022. If my Amazon Echo can understand when I tell it from the shower to play me the theme son from the 1970s television show CHiPs (long story), your voice system should be able to understand words like, "Cancel service."
Good: "Okay, I'll get you to someone who can help."
Bad: "I think you said..." (followed by something you definitely did not say).
Never, ever, ever, hang up.
I can hardly believe that some automated customer service systems do this—but you've probably encountered some that just flat-out give up on you, and hang up.
Good: "Sorry you're having trouble. Let’s connect you to someone who can help."
Bad: "Sorry we weren't able to help. Goodbye!"
Bonus: Don’t claim that your options have recently changed. We know that’s a lie.
Got any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments.
7 other things worth knowing today
Remote work likely contributed to a mini-baby boom in 2021 among women in the U.S. — a reversal of a years-long decline in the birth rate, according to a working paper published by three economists this week. (Axios)
Sobering thought: If you have kids 75 percent of the time you actually spend with them will be before they turn 12 years old. (1,000 Hours Outside)
We can all relate to this, I'm sure: You're flying on your private jet, but you're annoyed because of spotty wi-fi. Now, SpaceX is coming to the rescue, rolling out Starlink internet service for private jets. (Reuters)
Spirit Airlines shareholders have approved a takeover by JetBlue Airways, ending a six-month battle to create the country's fifth-largest carrier. The airlines said they expect to close the transaction no later than the first half of 2024— assuming federal regulators sign off. (CNBC)
Chipotle Mexican Grill is bringing back its in-person Halloween costume-wearing promotion for the first time since 2019. Dress up in costume and visit a restaurant from 3 pm local time to close on Halloween and get a $6 entree. I admit this is not the top story of the day, but I remember the costumed parade out the door at the Chipotle near where I used to work in Manhattan, and I’m glad it’s coming back. (Chain Store Age)
U.S. college student enrollment in Korean language classes has risen 78% from 2009 to 2016, reaching 15,000, while total enrollment in language classes has plateaued in recent years, according to data analyzed from Modern Language Association. The only other widely learned language with significant growth in the span was American Sign Language, which increased enrollments by 37%. Credit goes to K-pop and Korean television like Squid Game and Parasite. (NPR)
NASA revealed a new image from the James Webb Space Telescope that displays a higher resolution view of the Pillars of Creation, showing dust and gas creating new stars perhaps 7,000 light years away from Earth. (NASA, Youtube)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Unsplash. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. See you in the comments.
Bill, so funny and so sad all at the same time. I went nuts just this week when yet another vmail system told me their menu options had recently changed. I called BS on that one.
If you’ve never dealt with government offices, you have no idea of how their vmail system can break even the strongest people. The absolutely, top of the line, most wonderful calling experience is with 1-800-contacts. They should be the gold standard for all system setups.
I love the phone systems that tell you the info you will need when the CSR comes on line: You will need your account number, the service address on the account, and the name of your 7th grade math teacher so you might as well hang up!!