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Answering the Phone: Don’t Give Your Customers the Runaround

Do you give your front-office staff all the information they need so they don’t have to put a customer on hold or transfer them to someone else?

Jason Stahl has 27 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 15 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

We’ve all had it happen to us before. You call a business and get a menu of options to address your issue or question: press 1 for ___ , press 2 for ___, etc. Sometimes we get disconnected, or we go to a person who says they are not the right person to talk to and they transfer you to the correct department, only to disconnect you again. It is so frustrating that you’re tempted to throw your $1,200 smartphone against the wall.

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I had one of these frustrating experiences recently. I called a national chain hardware store to check on the delivery of patio doors. On my first attempt, it rang forever, then it sounded like someone picked up and hung up. The second time, I got a human who said he would transfer me to “deliveries,” but the transfer failed and I got the dreaded dead dial tone. The third time, I got a human again who was incredibly friendly and informative but who transferred me to deliveries once more. The odd thing was there was no elevator music or commercial as I waited, just dead air, making we wonder if I indeed was on hold or if anyone would pick up.

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This made me think of a consultant who once told me of a shop owner he knew who trained his front-line people who receive calls to have all the information they need to handle customers without transferring them around the entire shop. He too had experienced those frustrating moments on the phone, and the last thing he wanted was the same thing to happen to his customers.

Do you train your front-office staff? Tell them exactly how to greet the customer and have specific word tracks to use? Give them all the information they need so they don’t have to put someone on hold or transfer them to someone else? It’s not easy, and not many businesses have figured this out. But imagine if you could achieve it! It is something to aspire to. Your customers are traumatized enough without adding to their stress by giving them the runaround.

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