By Dave Millett, Equinox
Customer satisfaction is the key to the long-term success of any business. But far too many companies annoy and frustrate their customers before they even communicate with them. They do this by not thinking about how their customers want to get in touch – but instead, they focus on how they want their customers to contact them.
Different groups of people will prefer different methods, yet so many companies just focus on the cost to them and not assessing the cost of losing customers as a result.
For example, many suppliers of web text technology are highlighting that the cost of a web text conversation is 20% of a call. However, if your client base is older, then a high proportion may not have access to the internet.
An example of an organisation that really recognised the needs of its client base was a housing association that added WhatsApp as an option for contacting it. This was ideal as many of the tenants use the app as it has no cost and can be used when they have run-out of credit on their mobile.
With the growth of social media, it may be that you get enquiries via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook etc. Sometimes, in the case of small businesses we have seen them get enquiries or contacts via their personal Facebook profile. The key is to ensure that you can respond quickly however your customers choose to reach you.
Most people choose the easiest option. If you don't offer them the option that is easiest for them – and your competitor does, then they will call them, not you.
For those companies that expect their customers to call them, and it is fair to day that the phone is still a very common method of contact, here are some common mistakes that will almost certainly put your prospects off doing business with you:
- Companies that profiteer by using 0844 or 0871 numbers. People are now becoming aware that these companies make a profit on every call they receive – even a sales call. There is a useful website http://www.saynoto0870.com/ which lists many alternative numbers. Ofcom's clear calling policy requires companies using these numbers to display the cost of calling them in close proximity to the number wherever and however it is displayed. But unfortunately, to date, they have been slow to enforce this. But hopefully this will change.
- Assuming the customer has rung the number how easy is it for them to talk to someone? Companies using options such as 'press 1', 'press 2' etc. to route calls to various departments may not be aware that this will just cause some customers to abandon the call. At best, they'll get irritated at having to listen to a number of options only to end up being told to go to the web site. You can do the maths; if your announcement had three levels of choice and each level has five choices that means there are you are asking customers to effectively make 125 choices. Four levels and it is 625 choices and five levels makes it 3,125 choices. How much simpler to speak to someone and say, "can I talk to someone about…"
- Equally frustrating are those companies that install systems that prompt users, before they talk to anyone, to enter their account code/customer number etc. and then, having eventually got through to someone, the first thing you are asked is "can I have your account number?". You have to ask who advised them on this – suppliers wanting to sell more software?
- But most irritating of all are the businesses that spend a lot of money playing comforting messages – stressing how important your call is to them. If it were that important why not hire more people to ensure there are enough to answer the calls? Customers are not fooled!
Obviously smaller companies may not be able to afford the more complex options but they still need to consider how they deal with a contact when it is made. For example, should you use an answering service or let a call go to voicemail? Should someone review all incoming emails and send a 'holder' saying 'thank you for your email, X will be in touch within 48 hours? Should the person in charge of your social media be tasked with replying to contacts via the various social platforms? Or does this require input from someone more senior?
When considering using an answering service, ask yourself, for example, does the answering service just take a message and pass it on or do they add value? Can they solve or answer some queries? If they are just passing on a call back message how does that help or add value?
In summary, it should be easy for customers to reach you at zero or little cost to them and in a manner that suits them. A great test is to pretend to be a customer and contact your own company through different media – was it a good experience for you? If not, that is what your customers have to deal with every day. So, put some thought into how you can improve the experience – if you don't then your customers could end up contacting your competitors.
About the Author
Dave Millett has over 35 years' experience in the Telecoms Industry. He has worked in European Director roles for several global companies. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80%. He also regularly advises telecom suppliers on improving their products and propositions.