Most of us remember a time when you telephoned a company and a live person answered and asked how they might direct your call. Today, that rarely happens. When you call a company a recorded voice first tells you that your call is important and they then make you listen to all of the options: “press one if you want this and press two if you want that and etc.” My first reaction is that my call is probably not important to them. If it truly was important, they would more likely have a human answer the phone the old fashioned way by saying “Hello … how may I help you?”
Recently, I had an HVAC technician check the air conditioner in my new home. After running various tests he assured me that everything was OK and I should be able to get through Florida’s summer heat without difficulty. As he was leaving, he handed me his business card and pointed out that it contained his cell phone number. He said that I should feel free to call him directly with any problems. He told me that his company was large and they wanted to make it easy for their customers to contact technicians when they needed service. It was a refreshing change to do business with a company that truly cared about its customers.
As I thought about this, I recalled the number of times in my career when somebody in the C-Suite (usually a new vice-president) would decide that it would be a great idea if employees in the hospital could call only one number to get any kind of service. It was as if they assumed that persons who spotted a leaking pipe were not intelligent enough to call plumbing or if they saw a floor that needed cleaning, they did not have the good sense to call housekeeping. They did not seem to realize that when the same hospital employees had problems at home, they knew exactly who to call.
At one time I did my banking at Southeast Bank in Miami where they had just installed an automated phone system. One morning when the bank’s president phoned his bank he discovered the frustrations that his customers experienced while listening to a recording tell him which numbers to push. His immediate reaction was to order that the system be removed. He told employees that customer service was about communicating directly with customers and keeping them happy. His actions were applauded by the community, and featured in newspapers and on television news. Despite the positive reaction of the community, hospitals and business continued distancing themselves from their customers.
I always resisted attempts by the C-Suite to install these systems. In my opinion, they made it difficult for my department’s customers to communicate directly with the technicians who were best suited to help them. Creating barriers between customers and servicers is not a good way to run a business. I am not anti C-suite, but I sometimes wonder if they need to spend more time in the trenches where we serve our customers every day. They need to understand that savvy customers want to talk with the person who they know to be best suited to handle their problems without first having to be screened by someone who may
not know the difference between a leaking arterial pressure line and a leaking water pipe. Staying close to your customers is one of the best things you can do to keep them happy and insure loyalty. It also lets them know that you genuinely care about them.
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