(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?

4 Responses to “(800) Too Many Phone Numbers”

  1. » links for 2007-03-08 » Supples’ Pub said:

    Mar 07, 07 at 11:29 pm

    […] Service Untitled » (800) Too Many Phone Numbers – customer service and customer service experience blog (tags: business customers) […]

  2. Custserv » Customer Service Blogs Round-up - The New Competitive Edge said:

    Mar 08, 07 at 2:20 am

    […] Service Untitled posted a good suggestion on how to provide excellent customer service over the phone. I agree that it’s not good for business to have many numbers for several departments. While having many numbers gives the impression that your business is highly diversified, the downside is that it confuses your customers. It’ll be easier to have one number to remember and best to have a person at the end of the line who will handle the call and direct it to the concerned person. […]

  3. Louise Kursmark said:

    Mar 08, 07 at 8:12 am

    As a consumer, I shout “halleluia” at the idea of one phone number but ESPECIALLY having a real person answer the phone and direct your call. I know companies did away with this in favor of automated call-routing systems, but frankly, they stink. Luckily I have low blood pressure, because I can feel it rise every time I get into one of these systems and have to listen to a fake-cheery voice telling me how important my call is and asking me dozens of questions to get me to the right place.

    I am always in a better frame of mind when a helpful human answers my call and efficiently directs me to the right department. And isn’t that what customer service is all about?

  4. RichardatDELL said:

    Mar 09, 07 at 12:49 am

    You raised some important issues about service, and in this blog post about too many 800 numbers. As we at Dell moved to revamp our techncial and customer support starting in the last couple quarters, spending over $150 million incremental dollars, you are right. Too many phone numbers was (and still is) one of the issues.

    However, in just several months we reduced the number of toll-free numbers by 83 percent, making it much easier to contact Dell to know what number to call. We’ve also reduced the number of phone queues by 38 percent, making it much less likely to end up in the wrong place.

    Now, we are not yet where we want to be but the early results of this are pretty promising. Our technology support transfers are down 62 percent since the start of last year, and we’ve seen a 10 percent increase in customer satisfaction for tech support where we’ve implemented these changes. Thought you and your readers might find those facts related to your blog to be of some interest.

    Thanks too for the commentary on the importance of these issues.