Corporate America, you’re messing up. Big time.
My job requires me to spend a lot of time on the phone. That kind of exposure to what now passes for business phone etiquette has made me a seething volcano of frustration.
I’ve often been tempted to unleash this rage on some clueless customer service flunky in New Delhi, but I haven’t. Instead I’m going to use my vast experience in the oozing slime pit of business phone systems as a force for good. To improve the lives of my fellow man.
Gather round, corporate decision makers. If you want to make friends and influence people (i.e. make money), listen up. Here are a few of your phone practices that drive us crazy:
- Domo Arigoto Mr. Roboto: Nobody wants to be called by a computer. No. Body. The robo-call is the most annoying business practice ever designed by fiendish marketing gurus. The land line is going the way of the dodo primarily to avoid robo-calls.
These always ring when we are in the bathroom. Dashing to answer the phone, while simultaneously yanking up our pants or wrapping a towel around our wet, shivering nakedness – that’s an accident waiting to happen. After falling flat on our faces on our way to the phone, what are the chances we’re going to want to take your survey, vote for your candidate or buy whatever you’re selling when we finally get there? Slim to none.
If you want to sell us something, you’d better be willing to invest at least as much human capital in the process as we are.
- While we have you tied to your chair… Don’t make us listen to a commercial before we get to where we want to be. If we want to learn your hours, how your latest product will change life as we know it, or how you are single-handedly saving the environment by recycling old memos as wallpaper, give us the option to press *6 and hear all about it. Otherwise, don’t waste our time.
- It’s nice to share. Don’t tell us, “This call may be recorded.” No, really? We’re shocked and appalled!
Nowadays we know we’re being recorded by your customer service department, the CIA, the NSA, that Snowden guy hiding out in the Moscow airport and who knows who-all. It would be easier to tell us who ISN’T listening in on this call.
- Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast. Sometimes. Choose your on-hold music wisely. While elevator music is boring, it’s probably a safer bet then expletive-laden rap. Know thy caller.
Maybe mix it up a little. One company I frequently call plays the same, Baroque-style song over and over again. I’ve heard it so often now I automatically start dancing the gavotte as soon as I dial their number.
- Just between us “buds.” Knock off the folksy, conversational style recordings. When we hear, “OK, let me look that up for you.” we do NOT think somebody is searching through an old, metal filing cabinet for our file. This is a computer. We get that.
- Se hablo Inglese. Don’t make us choose English. It’s great that your company is attuned to the needs of your non-English speaking customers. By all means, tell us we can press 2 to complete the call in Kurdish. But this is America. The default language on all communications should be English, with no button pushing required.
When we are calling a government office and English is not the default language, that government better be located in Juarez, and not Galveston.
- Change Would Do you Good. Don’t tell us, “Listen carefully as your options have changed.” Since when…last week? Last month? Last year? You and half your corporate brethren have been running the same message for 10 years!
- First I’ll need a little information. In order to reach a warm body to talk about our specific situation, the computer makes us enter our account number, then our date of birth, then our social security number, then our pin number, then the street address of our first grade teacher.
Why do we put up with this? Why do we grit our teeth, tighten our carpel tunnel wrist braces and commence with the entering? Because we have faith that all this hassle will get us to the one person in your company who will surely be able to help us with our problem.
When, at last, we hear the dulcet tones of your customer service expert (who has been chosen especially for us), what does she say? “May I have your account number, your date of birth, your social security number, your pin number, and the street address of your first grade teacher?”
“But, but…” we sputter, “I just typed in all of that stuff!”
“The computer uses that information to route the call, but doesn’t show it to me.” she responds with the Buddha-like calm of someone who has all day to spend on this call. Because she does. Unlike us, SHE is being PAID to languish on the phone.
If you ask for it, use it.
- People…people who need people. No matter how swell your phone tree may be, sometimes we want to talk to a real person. We consumers are funny that way. We don’t even care if it’s a stupid person, as long as it’s a warm body. Is that too much to ask?
Make sure this is one of the lowest hanging fruits on the first branch of your phone decision tree. Don’t leave us wandering in the on-hold desert for 40 years, frantically pressing 0 in a futile attempt to find signs of life.
- We care. We really do. Don’t keep telling us, “Your call is very important to us.” After we’ve listened to this bromide 37 times, we’re not buying it anymore. If our call was so gosh, darn important it would have been answered by now. By a real person.
Life would be easier for us customers, and more profitable for you corporations, if you would just follow these simple suggestions. Give me a call if you have any questions, Mr. CEO. Better make it my cell phone, though – I just got rid of the land line.