How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?
As if that weren’t bad enough, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating. And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”
Have you ever wondered: “If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it?”
The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality. To have you get your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to hire and assign people to do just that.
Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to. They want to siphon off as much of the company’s profits for themselves as possible. And assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds. To a bean-counting executive, time is money.
Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them. Even calls to 911 can wind up with you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to hang on until someone comes on to speak with you.
That’s why so many bureaucracies make certain that when you call for help, the first–and sometimes the only–response you get is a recorded message telling you to visit the company’s or agency’s website.
This assumes, of course, that you have a computer–and that, if you do, you also have Internet access. If you don’t have a computer, or you have a computer but don’t have Internet access, or you do have Internet access but the service is down, you’re flat out of luck.
And the agency/company couldn’t care less.
But it need not be this way. Companies and agencies can treat their customers with respect for their time and need for help.
That’s why companies that genuinely seek to address the questions and concerns of their customers reap strong customer loyalty–and the profits that go with it. One of these is LG, which produces mobile phones, TVs, audio/video appliances and computer products.
LG actually offers an 800 Customer Care number that’s good 24-hours a day. Its call center is staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people who are willing to take the time to answer customer questions and guide them through the steps of setting up the appliances they’ve bought.
Such an approach to customer service is not new–just rare these days. In his 1970 bestselling primer on business management, Up the Organization, Robert Townsend offered the following advice to company CEOs: “Call yourself up.”
“When you’re off on a business trip or a vacation,” writes Townsend, “pretend you’re a customer. Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help. You’ll run into real horror shows. Don’t blow up and ask for name, rank and serial number–you’re trying to correct, not punish. Just suggest to the manager (through channels, dummy) that he make a few test calls himself.”
So how do you cope with agencies/companies that don’t care enough to help their customers?
I’ll address that in my next column.