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Music on Hold

Every decent PBX system offers some sort of music on hold option. Some people prefer jazz, some people prefer classical, others prefer some other type of music. The question is, which type should your company get? That depends on your customers’ preferences and here’s a way to find out.

  • Survey them. Take a survey of a percentage of your customers (selected randomly) and ask them what type of music they would prefer. Do they want jazz, classical, etc.? Make it an interactive survey (i. e. include samples they can listen to) and give them a small reward for giving their opinions (i. e. a $5 credit or something). Customers will appreciate that you asked them their opinion and even paid them for them it.
  • Ask them on your forums. If you have customer forums, make a topic and ask your customers what they would prefer. Keep in mind that customers who visit customer forums are usually more involved than the average one (and thus may have different preferences as far as music goes).
  • Ask them on your web site. Another way is to post a small poll on your web site (front page or support page) that says something like “We’re thinking of changing our hold music. What would you prefer?” and list the choices.
  • Ask them directly. If you have a business where you physically see your customers, ask some of the ones who come in. As they’re checking out, ask “May I ask you a quick question?” and that’s it. You can also email some clients you deal with regularly.

That’s a few ways to ask for your customers’ opinion. The most important thing, though, is to listen to what your customers say. If your customers say they like heavy metal, use it. If they say they like Beethoven’s 5th symphony a lot, use it. Be sure that you have the legal rights to use whatever music you pick.

Here’s some other things on the subject of hold music.

  • Let them turn it off. Give customers a choice to hold without music if they want. Not all PBX systems offer this, but better ones do.
  • Make it loud enough to hear. A company I deal has hold music that I can barely hear. It’s really annoying – make sure your customers can hear your hold music.
  • Volume needs to stay constant. Even if you have songs where the volume varies a lot, make sure that the volume level remains constant. If you can’t get it to remain constant, don’t use that piece of music.
  • Don’t pitch them. I’ve said it here – don’t give customers a sales pitch while they’re on hold.

That should cover it. As always, think about what you’d want if you were the customer. Remember when you thought “Wow, this hold music wasn’t annoying.” when calling a company and try and try to copy the way they did.

Happy Holding. Tomorrow’s subject: I don’t know just yet. Feel free to comment with suggestions.

Call Backs: Part 3 (Conclusion)

I’ve discussed the good and the bad of callback systems, and there’s a very clear difference. Though the two are almost the same, the subtle differences are enough to change how enjoyable it is to use the system entirely. So the question is – how do you (or I) implement a good call back system for your company?

The golden rule of this one is to hire more people so that you don’t need one, but if that doesn’t fit your budget, here’s what you should do to ensure a good call back system.

  • Invest in a good system. If you hire a full time customer service representative (40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year) at $13.00 an hour, that’s $26,000 without any benefits of any sort. Be prepared to invest a good amount of money into a good call back system. It’ll save you money compared to hiring more people, so don’t be cheap. The rest of the points assume you have a capable system. (Note: Service Untitled is not a blog about some of the advanced call center technology available, nor will it ever be.)
  • Let them wait. If customers want to wait, let them. It’s as simple as that.
  • Tell them how long it’ll be. Tell customers how long it’ll be before they get a call back. Now add 20% to that number and you should be fine. Unless you have some really advanced technology and really strong records of how long your average call takes for your average issue, chances are your time estimate won’t be 100% accurate without that extra 20%.
  • Comfort the customer. Before the customer inputs his or her telephone number, assure him or her that their position in line will not be lost and that the call back is the best for them (customers don’t care if it’s convenient for you).
  • Remind the customer. Remind the customer that you’re available 24/7 (hopefully) and that if they want, they are welcome to call back at their convenience. Again, don’t word it so that calling back at another time makes it better for your company – customers care about themselves.
  • Have them input a telephone number. Don’t assume the phone the person is calling on is the one they want a call back on – ask the customer to input a telephone number they wished to be called back at.
  • Have a person available when the call back happens. This is one of the few things T-Mobile’s system didn’t do 100% correctly. When the system called me back, it said please push 1 when -name- is available. I pushed 1 and then waited about 15 seconds before being connected to a person. A human should respond when they hear the word “Hello” or something along those lines.
  • Have the information. Another thing was that I had to provide my account information when I got the call back. I assumed they would have it, and it was somewhat annoying. Though telephone numbers are straight forward, other things like domain names, usernames, routing numbers, etc. are not, so if possible, have the representative know the account information beforehand. You can ask something to verify identity (stick to something with a few numbers) and the first and last name (spelling not required).

Keep these in mind and you’ll have relatively happy customers by the time you talk to them. No one really likes call back systems or extended hold times, but if you can make the process bearable, your customers won’t mind it quite as much.

Tomorrow’s subject: music on hold. Sure to be fun.

Comments and Such

I came across this post about an hour or two ago, and once again, it was suggested that Service Untitled allow comments. So, I’m going to do it. I’m going to give in. Commments will slowly, but surely appear over the next few posts, as well as pings and trackbacks.

They’re going to be moderated, but they’ll be allowed and I assume have a fairly quick turnaround time for approval. I’m also going to hunt down some decent spam tracking software. Another thing is I may actually start looking at and trying to improve my Technorati rating.

Keep in mind, I’m blogging to provide content, not so much the techno goodies, but I’ll do my best to make the readers of Service Untitled happy. That’s what customer service is about, isn’t it?

Call Backs: Part 2

The previous post promised a post about a good call back system, so here it is. Last night, I had to call T-Mobile. I spoke to someone in their customer care department who got my account information and then told me I had to be connected to someone in their technical support department.

I was transferred and after about 30 seconds or so, the system asked “If you want, T-Mobile can call you back when it is your turn. You won’t lose your place in line and will be called back within 18 minutes.” I selected the option, inputted my telephone number, said my name and that was it.

About 15 minutes later, I was called back. I gave the technical support representative my name, phone number, etc. and we worked on my issue. Happy customer, happy representative.

The difference, however, between the good and the bad is that T-Mobile gave me A) a fairly reasonable wait time and B) an option to wait if I wanted. If T-Mobile didn’t invest in their PBX system, it’d be like Lenovo and literally be an answering machine. The difference is huge.

The level of customer satisfaction between the two systems isn’t even comparable. I was extremely frustrated and annoyed with Lenovo and quite happy with T-Mobile. Now that you’ve seen the difference, Monday’s post will contain information on how to improve (or implement successfully) your call back system.

Have a nice weekend!

Call Backs

Call backs are getting more and more popular in corporate phone systems. I personally find them rather annoying and don’t think requiring a customer to input his or her phone number to be called back at the company’s convenience is good customer service, but I encountered a good use of them last night.

My first major experience with call back systems was when I purchased my Lenovo laptop around Christmas of 2005. They required me to input my number to call back and I’d get a call back within 4 hours or so. That’s unacceptable. If the customer calls you a certain time, they probably want to talk to then. They may be in a good mood, have some free time, or whatever – but they want to talk to you then.

That would mean if Lenovo didn’t have the call back system, I would probably have had to hold about 4 hours. Even if you round it down to 1 hour, it’s unacceptable. That means Lenovo has to hire more people and needs to work on their customer service.

I had to call T-Mobile last night and they had a good call back system. I’ll post more about that tomorrow and then on Monday, I’ll post about how to improve call back systems for your company. It’s a mini-series on call backs and you’ll be suprised how subtle the differences are between the good and the bad.

I have been extremely busy the last few days and expect to be busy for the next few weeks. I will do my best to ensure daily postings over the next month and by June, the long posts will continue with some great content. I intend to do a few mini-series over the next few weeks and then around June, I’ll do some more non-series postings as well as a few longer series that will last a week or two each. Thanks for your patience!

Server Move

There won’t be a new post today because we’ve been dealing with server moves with both Service Untitled and some other sites. Basically, we’re moving from a smaller hosting account to a larger one on another server. This is a one time thing and we don’t expect any future hosting problems. Normal posting will resume tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience and don’t hesitate to send us an email if you have any questions.

By the way, this is an example of keeping customers in the loop. More about that here.

FAQ Question – What to do?

It’s a common fact of customer service – customers don’t always read the FAQs. Customer service representatives get mad when they don’t. My advice: get over it. I’ve run into experiences where representatives will literally scold me for not reading all of their FAQs.

Something along the lines of “Your question can be answered in our FAQ. Please read them and be sure to read them before asking us.” This is completely unacceptable. A step above that is sending the customer a link to the particular FAQ. Not as bad as saying “reading the FAQs”, but not proper etiquette. So what should customer service representatives do? It’s called seamless service.

Seamless service for when a customer asks a question in the FAQ would be not to say a word. Simply answer the question like you normally would and move on. The representative can just copy and paste the answer, add the customer’s name, and click send. It’s really that easy.

So if I send a question asking how many days the money back guarantee is for (which is stated in the FAQ), the representatives should say:

Hi -name-,

Thanks for contacting -company-. Our money back guarantee lasts for 30 days. Please feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.

Thanks,
NAME
Company

When you answer the question (without being rude to the customer) everyone is happy and the customer will be happy that he or she received a response (that was hopefully helpful). Customer should never have to do homework and find an answer (especially if they ask you).

Remember, seamless service. More about that in the next few weeks.

Follow-up: How

Okay, so we’ve gone over the who, what, why, where, and when, now to the how. Basically, the how is just a combonation of the rules for each of the details.

  • Ensure whoever doing the follow-up is aware of what the issue is and is both patient and friendly.
  • The point of a follow-up is to establish contact with a client pro-actively. Don’t waste a follow-up by having no set goals of the call.
  • Follow-ups help build brand awareness, improve the customer service experience, resolve issues more quickly, gather feedback from customers, and most importantly, make customers happier.
  • Follow-ups should be conducted over the same medium as the original correspondence. If the customer emails you, do the follow-up over email. Be sure to list or mention all ways to contact your company in all follow-ups.
  • Never do follow-ups if you think you may be bothering someone. In most cases, contacting the customer at the same time they contacted you is the best time.
  • The best golden rule is to use common sense and do your best to make customers happier (all the time).

If your representatives are patient, knowledgeable, and courteous when they do follow-ups, your customers will be happy. Follow-ups should be a key part of your customer service experience and customers will certainly appreciate your efforts.

Since everyone always wants examples, here’s an ideal follow-up for a web host being sent to a customer who recently had issues with his email. (after the more part)

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