By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Last week I couldn’t log in to one of my financial services accounts. I had three options: online help, email, or phone. I opted to call. That’s what you do when you’re in this industry.
I reached their automated attendant and listened to the prompts. After a couple of button pushes, I reached a real person, perky, and positive-sounding. But before I could finish telling her what I needed, she interrupted me. Apparently anticipating what I was going to say, she knew just what to do. “Becky can help you. Let me transfer you.”
I expected to hear ringing. Instead, I heard more prompts and after more button-pushing, I heard the pleasant voice of the first person again. “I think I’m stuck in a loop.”
She didn’t apologize. “Yeah, it’s best to leave a message in a voicemail. You’ll get a call back within 24 hours.”
I didn’t want to wait 24 hours. I wanted to help right away. Isn’t that what phone support is for? I left a message and hung up.
I’m still waiting for a callback. Fortunately, I figured out the problem myself.
Although the receptionist I talked to was pleasant and confident-sounding, she also hurried to pass me on to someone else. Also, both times we talked, she interrupted me to offer her solution. Though the second time I was appropriately transferred to voicemail, I doubt she routed my call correctly the first time.
In the answering service industry, our agents may be tempted to make this same mistake. With callers holding in the queue and likely growing less patient by the second, agents may feel pressure to complete their present call quickly and go to the next caller.
I understand this. I suspect it’s common at most answering services, but it shouldn’t be. There are two side effects when agents rush through one call to get the next:
The first outcome is poor customer service. This may result in the caller feeling they weren’t heard, the agent jumping to a wrong conclusion, or the agent handling the call inappropriately. In each scenario, the result is a failure.
The second outcome of rushing through a call is less time spent talking. If you bill by the minute this means reduced revenue. Now I would never suggest you, train agents, to stretch calls to boost revenue, but you should train them to take as much time as they need to appropriately respond to the caller while they’re on the line. This will allow the caller to receive great service and end the conversation confident their concern was addressed.
You’ll see improved service, along with a decrease in complaints, as well as an increase in billing. And all it takes is a reminderer to your agents to slow down and not rush through their calls.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.