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This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague Lisa Ford writes about what the customer hears when they pick up the phone to call a company.  I love her suggestions and I think you will too! – Shep Hyken  When customers call a company, they deserve the best treatment. However, many organizations continue to abuse their customers with poorly thought out phone handling. The guilty companies range from the largest to the smallest. The reality is many of those companies do not want the calls. They desire that the customer checks the website first before engaging in live chat or communicating via social media. Most customers have tried one of those options and as a last resort, pick up the phone. So when the experience is daunting, customers get even more frustrated. It is time to do a review of what customers go through when calling. I recommend a small team, including a director level person, to check your roadblocks and make the needed changes.

Here’s where to get started –

  1. Act as if you are the customer. Listen closely and experience the call process. I know you have done this before – do it again.
  2. Get rid of the instructions that inform the customer, “Listen carefully as our menu has changed.” Most of your customers do not call you often enough to have the menu memorized. We don’t know or care that it has changed. Just give us the choices. The fewer, the better. Also, give us the one chosen most frequently upfront, like press 1, not 6. For example, physician’s offices are the worst offender of this one – “to make an appointment press 5”. I don’t think pharmacies call more often than patients yet that option is always stated before the patient focused ones.
  3. Stop telling the customer, “Your call is very important to us, the next available representative will be with you soon.” Say it once. The more you repeat the same script the more it angers the customer. Change up the recording – some script, some music, some information about products and services. And please don’t tell the customer to go to the website, it is very likely they’ve tried it already and even on it while listening to the recording.
  4. Listen to the customer representative scripts. Is it time to let the team be more respectful and engaging? Customers are exhausted with the programmed scripts. They do not create a real conversation. The customer called to speak to a real live person – not one with a script and limited options. Remember the customer thinks their situation is unique, so listen well and engage them.
Customers will love you when you hire smarter, train well and coach often. Your team will love working for you and in an empowered environment. You will get loyalty from customers and employees. Your phone handling is part of the customer experience. If the customer has to call you, give them what they deserve – easy to access real people with real answers. Lisa Ford is the author of best selling training series, How to Give Exceptional Customer Service. She is a speaker and an author who helps companies create customer-focused cultures.

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