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Lose contact!

Is the telephone just a decoration in the office? Why are organisations ignoring this vital link to the world outside? Is communicating with customers a bother?

In the last two weeks I have made calls to a dozen organisations for various reasons – potential clients, banks, insurance company, courier service, training providers, telecom operators and hardware service just to name a few. Across all sectors, without exception, majority of the people responding (when they did answer the phone) were not equipped to handle the call professionally. The only exception being call centre agents – they are trained to handle calls and do a fair job; but their rituals can be very irritating, in particular the canned sign-off statements that just go on and on. My issue with call centers don’t relate to call handling skills, it has more to do with their awareness of processes and status of the work done on the complaint raised – we will deal with that another day.

Here are three examples of how companies are ruining their own reputation with poor telephone etiquette:

  1. The Call did not get deliverance

A few days back I had written about a courier service – three of whose franchisees in one city were charging different amounts to send the same letter to a given destination. To express my concern I called their Regional Office, on the phone number given at their website, and could not get through even once in spite of making a dozen attempts on four different days. Having given up all hopes I tried the number of a sister concern and got a response; but they could help me other than confirmed that the number has not changed.  How can an organisation with a national footprint be averse to accepting calls from customers?

The Customer Head Manager has not replied yet to the detailed email I sent 3 days back.

  1. “No incoming, Please!”

Calling the Okhla office of an IT training company I got a person who could speak only Hindi. That wasn’t the problem – I can speak a bit of that language and understand a lot more of it. A conversation with the Sales Manager was my quest and this person, who probably was the Security Guard, told me that they don’t like to be disturbed and that I should send them an email. I told him that the Sales Manager had already spoken with me once and this was a follow-up call. He wouldn’t note my number or inform the person concerned.

Couldn’t they have trained the Guard with a bit of telephone etiquette – or can’t the call be routed to another person when the Operator is away. But the responses heard from the Security Guard also hint at other cultural issues in the organisation.

  1. “Loan Call” to a bank

Following up a request for copies of some Property – related papers (which I had pledged with the bank while applying for a home loan) I had reached a dead end. The mobile phone of the person I had met was switched off for days and the landline number given on his card wouldn’t be answered. I visit another branch of the same bank and am told that Managers have instructed Officers to keep their mobile phones switched off during office hours – those were the Customer Service Executive’s words.  What are the phones for then? Why present the numbers on the business card? It took 2 more days for me to get a response on the landline.

Why would a leading bank permit the incoming phone calls go unattended for days on end?

What is the situation – are Indian organisations complacent or unaware or they don’t think this is a problem? Are they so overloaded with business opportunities that they don’t need any more of it?

Here are some simple things they can do to satisfy customers:

–          Train everyone, including the Security Staff and the Maintenance Staff, to handle incoming phone calls

–          Answer all calls – there used to be a 3rd Ring policy in operation the days I worked with Corporates; now, one is lucky if the call is answered in 3 days.

–          The least one can do is take down the name and the phone number of the caller and the name of the official they wish to speak with.

–          A ringing phone should not be left unattended – if the person using the cabin or cubicle is missing the passerby answers and notes down the name of the caller.

–          A lot of times officials don’t respond and the caller has to make one more attempt; the employee just does not have the time to return a call.

It may be a big enquiry from that prospect you have been chasing for months or a major customer seeking resolution for an issue or some emergency information from home. Don’t ignore the phone!

Can we risk losing our customer …. Take that call!

  1. Jamy
    May 12, 2012 at 6:00 am

    I sooooooooooooooo agree with all of it Jay!!

  2. vijayenggster
    May 12, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Again a nice article pointing out the role of Phones in our business life, whether its a mobile phone or land line … its a customer life line in case of any trouble & we cant ignore it just like that, specially if we are looking for re-occurring business….. its our life line for keep on getting good prospects & opportunities in the market …so we cant risk by losing our customer … Take that Call ..!!!

    • JayadevM
      May 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Good thinking, Vijay!

      Thank you for reading / responding.

  3. May 14, 2012 at 4:25 am

    Yes, the power of human voice, hearing emotions – no substitute for that.

    • JayadevM
      May 14, 2012 at 5:44 am

      That’s right, Shoba!

  4. Sudhiranjan Mandal
    May 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I have learnt that many of the private banks prefer to interact by email.That it needs multiple emails to sort out the issue,if at all,is quite a different matter.Call centre people,in many of the service industries are trained to avoid issues.In fact,I have got a ‘call you back’ ,right in the middle of the talk,too many times,when issues are raised by phone.

    • JayadevM
      May 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      Hello Mandal,

      Been a long, long time .. good to hear from you.

      Interesting point you make there – not being able handle issues raised, either by was of recording them for other to resolve or by being able to do it themselves, only means that its failure on multiple counts – poor process design, lack of empowerment and lack of training.

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