As businesses of all sizes increase their uptake of technology and use equipment to save money and take over functions previously provided by people, they’re also running the risk of alienating their customers.
Extensive ‘telephone trees’ intended to direct callers into the most appropriate channel to handle their enquiry require customers to go through a series of options even though they already know what they want to accomplish with their call. Something that is more convenient for the company becomes an inconvenience for its customers.
Voice recognition systems are another irritant for callers. Anything ‘new’ that doesn’t function at 100% effectiveness reflects poorly on the business, and to be told by a synthesised voice that it didn’t understand you is an invitation for the customer to go somewhere else where people will actually listen to them.
The human link is essential
No matter how much your business can save by the adoption of automated systems, the ability for your customers to link to your organisation through personal contact is essential. Inflexible automated systems can be very frustrating for people trying to deal with a business and makes them feel they aren’t being treated as an individual.
Ben Levitan, the CEO of EnvoyWorldWide, says on MarketingProfs.com: “The more times a customer has to call to resolve a problem or obtain information, the more likely he or she will become frustrated or dissatisfied with the business, jeopardising the relationship. As many companies have learned over the past few years, increased customer frustration leads to churn.”
Some workarounds for the problem
It is possible for a business to reduce its risk of creating customer frustration when it decides to take advantage of automated systems. Although callers would prefer to speak with a person first, they are becoming accustomed to automated systems of one kind or another and will tolerate them – to a degree.
The following list of principles can help you design a telephone answering system that integrates automation with human service and overcomes the major objections customers have to automated systems:
1. When customers call your business they shouldn’t have to choose from more than three options before being attended to by a person.
2. Callers should never be kept waiting on hold longer than one minute without being acknowledged by a person - and no more than two minutes waiting in total.
3. There should be pleasant background music or an interesting voice track for callers waiting on hold; silence makes them wonder if the line has disconnected.
4. Customers should never have to be transferred to more than one person before their needs are attended to.
5. The caller’s name should be recorded by the first person they speak with and passed to the person to whom the call is transferred.
6. It should be easy for customers to get their most common questions answered quickly. Have a system in place to do this.
7. Be able to transfer calls to a specific person at all times, even when they’re away from the business.
8. Make it possible for customers to contact your business via email and through your company’s website outside of normal business hours. Mention this facility in your after hours message.
Reducing customer frustration
Everyone feels their call is important or they wouldn’t have made it. Being transferred around an office and having to repeat their request is frustrating. The communications system in your business has to make it easy and fast for customers to get the information they need, and to get it without the need to call more than once.