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(800) Too Many Phone Numbers

A pet peeve of mine is when a company has a lot of phone numbers. It’s a real inconvenience for customers and can drive people crazy.

For example, I wanted to call IBM and ask them a question the other day. I had emailed support and they told me to call a number. The phone number asked me for an extension, which email support didn’t give me. I had to hang up and find another number. While browsing IBM’s site, I must have seen 25 different phone numbers for different departments.

Why can’t IBM have one phone number? One number for main frames, PCs, consulting, and all the thing. It makes things so much easier for everyone. IBM could have a human pick up the phone and send people to the right place. This is how it could work:

  • I call 1-800-IBM-ROCKS (or whatever the number is).
  • An operator answers the phone and says “IBM, how may I direct your call?”
  • I say “I’m looking to buy a PC.”
  • Operator says “Just a second. Are you looking to buy a PC for your business or yourself?”
  • Me: “My small business.”
  • Operator: “OK, just a moment. I’m going to transfer you to the sales department for Lenovo. Thank you for calling IBM!”
  • I am placed in the queue for the Lenovo sales department.

Wouldn’t that make for a more pleasant customer service experience? IBM would only have to spend about a minute on the phone with me (max) and it’d get me to the right place and really make my experience better. It is far more direct than wasting other employees’ time and pushing me from department to department.

Dell, HP, Best Buy, Cisco, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, etc. could all do the same thing. Just have an operator answer the phone and send me to the right place. They could even take it a step further and do what Seth Godin described.

In her interview with Service Untitled, Janice Liu said that HP was trying to consolidate their phone numbers. She said: “We had multiple phone numbers in the past, we now have HP-INVENT, so it is easier for the customer to access HP toll free.” It doesn’t seem like HP followed through completely, but they are trying. Check out this page on HP’s web site – it lists most of their phone numbers.

It seems that some companies are working on it, but there is still a long way to go. What does your company do? If it uses multiple phone numbers, why?

Why to go above and beyond in customer service?

One of the statistics programs I use on Service Untitled showed that a lot of people were interested in going above and beyond in customer service. I did some research and believe it or not, I had already written about it. Here is how to go above and beyond in customer service. I’ve written quite a bit about the subject, as you can see from the search here.

So, today’s post is about why a company should go above and beyond in customer.

  • It makes customers happy. Customers really appreciate it when it companies go above and beyond for them. They want to deal with companies that consistently go the extra mile and consistently work to make their experiences the best they can be.
  • It makes employees happy. While it may be more work for individual employees, overall, they will be happier. Employees like to deal with happy customers and like to make a positive difference.
  • It makes your company better to work with. Partners and suppliers like to work with companies who make their customers happy. They ideally would like to work with the best of the best.
  • Customers will refer you more. Happy customers will tell their friends. It definitely helps the bottom line.
  • More money for people. If you don’t have to spend as much on marketing, you can spend that on bonuses for employees, internal improvements, discounts for customers, community donations, etc. Everyone involved will appreciate it.
  • Get some publicity. When companies really go above and beyond, people will be more likely to blog about it, tell their journalist friends, or whatever. Your company could even be featured on Service Untitled. Now, that would be cool.
  • Why not? Why shouldn’t you try to make customers happy with great customer service?

Just one of these should be more than enough to convince you to try and go above and beyond. It’ll make your company better and you won’t look back.

Short post, but it is about quality – not quantity, right?

Importance of making things easy.

I’ve talked about cross-searching (part 1 and part 2) before. It’s really an interesting thing and can be very useful. A few weeks ago, I read a post on Ryan Caron’s blog about making customers happy with some simple customer service tips.

He suggests making it easy to help your customers.

This is really obvious, but a surprising amount of people don’t think about it (like a lot of other things in customer service). Ryan must be dedicated because from what he says, his search systems are terrible, but he still searches anyways. A lot of billing/CRM systems have very powerful search systems and you shouldn’t buy one unless it does. 

Ryan, like me, is not above bribing his customers. He says the the process of refunding or crediting customers should be easy and that if customers are inconvenienced, they should be given a refund, credit, or some sort of other thing to help make the experience a little less painful. Definitely good advice.

A commenter pointed out that all administrative interfaces should be built with customer service in mind. He added that if it isn’t in initial development, it should be (and in most cases, is not too difficult) added later.

Some other things that may be good to include when developing applications:

  • Something that automatically follows up or reminds employees to follow up.
  • Automatic customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Easy ways to change accounts (including upgrades/downgrades).
  • Easy ways to add invoices (one time charges).
  • Customer “notes” feature to keep track of little things that customers tell you.

Instead of customer service and operations working together, customer service and the development team need to work together. Check out this post about achieving great customer service (or at least experience) through features.

If things are easy (for everybody, especially employees), they will be more likely to do whatever it entails. If it’s simple, why not? If it’s complicated, then it’s a bit different. So, try to make things simple and it’ll definitely pay off later.

Compliance Posters

Note: I’ve chosen to try out ReviewMe. I won’t do it more than once per week and ReviewMe posts will never be during the week days (and thus interfere with regular content). Service Untitled is being compensated for this post, but the reviews, thoughts, opinions, etc. are our own.

Today I am reviewing a company called Compliance Labor Company. What these guys do is provide the posters that are required in many states by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

The posters that CPC provides cover everything from smoking rules, adult CPR, first aid, wage notices, etc. For example, this California All-On-One poster outlines a whole bunch of laws and rules that the government requires you show. They offer a variety of general office posters, ones specifically for industrial companies, and others for safety training. For HR employees, the company also offers some standard human resources forms and other materials.

My favorite part of the site is their extensive article and resource section. There are lots of useful articles and quite a few pages explaining exactly what companies have to do. The company is focused on keeping posters up to date (the posters are easy to update – they use a Peel ‘N Post overlays that makes it easy to update them) and is constantly researching the laws and regulations to ensure all posters are up to date.

Customer service wise, CPC has a clearly published 800 phone, email address, physical address, a great BBB record, and an email form. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee, and a satisfaction guarantee. It’s always great to see companies that focus on a small thing, but because of their focus, do a good job at it. CPC seems to be such a company.

Note: Again, this is a sponsored post.

Waiting – part two.

So earlier today, I waited. I had to go to some meeting/seminar, which was fine. I was told to arrive at 10:50 AM and that the seminar would start at 11:00 AM. I arrived at 10:50, took my seat, and waited. There were about 50 people in the room and about 5 or so staff members also waiting.

I went through my email on my phone and after 15 minutes or so, I had finished that and started getting a bit impatient. I kept on waiting and it was 11:15 AM by now. I asked the person sitting next to me if he knew anything and he said he didn’t. Finally, at 11:20 AM the people who were supposed to talk came in. No hello or anything – they just went to back and came out one by one a few minutes later. After an annoying 45 minutes, at 11:35 AM, the meeting/seminar started. It ran until 12:30 (a half hour later than it should have) and everyone was fairly mad.

So, what did these guys do right? Nothing. Is it possible to make this situation into at least an acceptable one? Yes!

  • Plan. The people who were running this do meetings like this fairly often. They have an idea of how long it takes to get setup, what’s involved, who’s involved, and so on. They should have planned their schedule so that they were an hour early. That would have given them plenty of time to get all setup and adjusted.
  • Update. Keeping customers in the loop is so important. There were no shortage of staff members there – they should have been providing updates. One guy or girl going up on the stage and saying “We’re running a bit late. Everything should be starting in about 5 minutes. We apologize for the inconveniences!” would have been very helpful.
  • Update again. Once the people actually made it, the staff members should have provided another update.
  • Something to do. People like to be entertained. Playing a brief, informative video or someone asking some questions to engage the audience all would be helpful to avoiding aggravations.
  • Lots of apologies. There was no apology about everything running so late. There should have been and if you find yourself in a situation where you are running late, apologize – several times.
    • For bonus points, when you send out the thank you cards (which you do, of course) – include an additional apology. Something like “P. S. Sorry that we ran late!”
  • Bride ’em. I’m not usually opposed to bribing customers. So, give them a coupon to something, a gift certificate, a little gadget, or just something to help apologize for the inconvenience.

If you do these things, it will at least make the experience of having to wait a tolerable one. Running late is terrible and it is hard customer service experience to recover from. However, you can still try to make the best out of it.

Have a great weekend!

Waiting.

I am at a meeting that I was told to arrive at 10 minutes early. It is just starting now – 20 minutes late. More about this later.

Cost Savings and Customer Service

The March 1st issue of John DiJulius’ customer service newsletter came out today. It has a few interesting stories and is worth checking out. Before check it out, though, read my posts about cost savings and customer service below:

One of the main points of the newsletter was to talk about how saving money doesn’t necessarily improve customer service. This seems obvious, but most companies try to save money and don’t think about how their cost savings will effect the customer service experience. I’ve talked about operations and customer service before. However, I have never really talked about cost savings and customer service.

Before trying to save money with certain things, ask yourself these questions:

  • How will it effect our customers’ experience?
  • How does it effect our employees?

You don’t want to make any changes that will seriously inconvenience customers or employees. If employees are upset, they won’t provide good customer service to customers. If customers are upset, they will yell at employees. It’s a terrible cycle and one that should be avoided at all costs.

Changes made for the purpose of cost saving should be transparent to customers and nearly transparent to employees. You have slightly more room to change things with employees, but if you make a change that creates a big problem, it isn’t worth it.

Obviously, it is impossible to find a situation that does not inconvenience anyone to any degree. This is when you have to look at the benefits and deal with the inconveniences.

For example, changing a provider of some backend service may not have a big effect on frontline staff employees, but it may inconvenience back of the house employees for a few weeks. For example, you could offer a bonus to those employees for helping you. If the company is saving money, it will be worth it keep everyone happy.

So remember – before making changes with the intent to save money ask yourself:

  • How will it effect our customers’ experience?
  • How does it effect our employees?

For some examples and more information about this, you can view the newsletter mentioned earlier here.

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