Do You Hear What I Hear? (More on First Impressions)

When a potential customer contacts your company via telephone, what is the first impression received? Is the caller warmly welcomed by a live operator or receptionist, or does he get dumped into a frustrating, endless cycle of automated voice commands?

Sometimes the obvious is the most easily overlooked. A business owner has only one chance to make a first impression. Today, it’s common for a potential customer’s first visit to your company to be made by telephone, so make that initial contact a positive experience for your caller.

The first time a potential customer visits your company (whether in person, via telephone or through the Internet), he should immediately feel comfortable and confident about doing business with you.

Think about the image presented to someone who phones your organization for the first (or 50th) time. Will the caller feel welcomed and important? Is he likely to remain on the line to finish the transaction or call again for products and services in the future?

Telephone Doctor recently commissioned a survey that discovered the following:
• 85% of consumers indicated that telephone courtesy makes a difference when choosing which business they will patronize
• 65% prefer doing business with companies who have real people answering calls versus those that use an automated attendant
• 65% stated they are frustrated when placed on hold immediately after calling a company
• 48% refuse to conduct business with a company if they receive poor customer service over the phone
• The most frequently noted complaint: being placed on hold

The nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization Public Agenda discovered that a whopping 94% of its survey sample indicated it was “very frustrating” to phone a business and be greeted with a recorded voice rather than one of a live person.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, telephone operators are one of the top ten positions expected to decline within the next twelve months. Today’s voice recognition systems continue to improve dramatically, and the increase of electronic communication has considerably reduced reliance on the telephone.

Although many companies have made the transition from live operators to automated attendants for a variety of reasons (most notably to reduce overhead), the survey findings discussed in this blog should be carefully considered. Business owners may wish to ensure callers have a way to reach a live operator, and all employees interacting with customers on the telephone should be professional and courteous. Operators should be able to listen and really comprehend what the caller is requesting, so they can answer the question and fulfill the order or get the customer to someone who can.

Here’s hoping you hear what your customers do!

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