Thursday, August 28, 2008

The One Call You Always Take

Twice in the last two days, I've been talking with colleagues who interrupted our call by saying, "Hang, on, I've got to catch this call." In both cases, the call was from a child at college. My daughter is 14 hours away at college so I perfectly understood being put on hold. You always take the call from a kid at college, whether the topic is "I need money" or "The oil light came on last month....should I worry?" or "My professor hates me, I hate my roommate, I hate college, and I've just signed up for the Peace Corps, cut off all my hair, and got a tattoo." Some people are just too important to ignore.

Do your clients feel the same way? Do they interrupt calls to take yours? How do you become the "interrupter" and not the "interruptee?" Here are three ways to make sure they take your call:
  1. Offer a gift. Every time you talk with a client, you should give them something no one else can give them. It could be a compliment, a tidbit of free advice, a tip on a new technology that would make their life easier, or just a juicy piece of news about a mutual acquaintance.
  2. Keep it short. We're all busy, so keep the interruption to a minimum unless, of course, they want to talk.
  3. Listen more than you talk. Once you offer the gift, let the recipient do the talking. If they're busy or don't want to talk, fine. But you may have caught them in the middle of an issue. We all want someone who listens to us on our terms. This might just be the time the client wants a receptive ear.

Give 'em a reason to take your call. They'll appreciate it more than the call that begins, "Daddy, who is our insurance company....?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

IVR Revenge

Seth Godin mentions in his blog a company that has found a way around those interminable phone trees we get when we call a large company. Fonolo is in beta with a service that "spiders" phone trees for, say, your bank, and then allows you to "deep dial" the number you want. You bypass the language choices and the inane "Please listen carefully because we've changed the options" speeches we always get and you get directly to the number you want.

Fonolo is an example of consumer backlash against companies that place operational efficiency ahead of a positive customer experience. It will be interesting to see if the large companies fight this or accept it. The excellent companies will take a lesson and make getting to the right number quickly a normal part of their process.