It was a crisp later winter morning in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell said into a phone “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.“
The call was short and to the point, right? The very first phone call in history just goes to show the phone wasn’t created for the primary purpose of idle conversation. The is supposed to save time. Customers call your business because they want to save time, not waste time.
Here are five ways most businesses waste people’s time on the phone:
Phone Time Waster #1: Long wait on hold
Have you ever been asked, “Can you hold please?” and before you can even answer they’ve already put you on hold? Twentyfive percent of customers switch because they are tired of being put on hold. Sevetyone percent of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do, and 69 percent of customers say they are being put on hold for too long.
Do you put people on hold? How long do you put them on hold?
I called my company once and asked for my top manager. I was put on hold for 18 seconds and became so furious I hung up. I called back and told them never to put me on hold for longer than 15 seconds without getting back to me. Fifteen seconds feels like a long time when you are on hold. Have you walked into a restaurant and a sign says “Please wait to be seated” but the place is empty? What are you waiting to be seated for? Why should I be put on hold when I walk in?
The world is going fast folks. My money is bored. After keeping a client on hold, always check back in after 15 seconds. The second time checking back in, get their contact information and promise to call them back. Make it clear to the customer that you don’t want to waste their time on hold.
Related: AI Is Taking the Art Out of Sales
Phone Time Waster #2: Being disconnected, then unable to reach the same rep.
People don’t like starting over with someone else. If you’re going to make sales, you need to deliver better customer service than you’re getting elsewhere. The fact that you don’t get good customer service almost everywhere else doesn’t mean you shouldn’t deliver it. Your value in the marketplace depends on your ability to deliver customer service that nobody else delivers.
Fiftythree percent of customers switch companies because they feel unappreciated. Why would I go someplace to feel unappreciated? Seventyone percent of customers say valuing their time is most important. You need to be efficient. Who wants to wait these days? The solution is to always get the direct cell phone number when you’re on a phone call so that you don’t get disconnected. “Let me get your cell in case we get disconnected.”
Phone Time Waster #3: Transferred to representative who can’t help or is wrong.
Have you been there and done that? I have. Seventytwo percent blame their bad customer service experience on having to explain their problem to multiple people. Nobody wants to talk to someone who can’t solve their problem. Employees need the authority to solve the problem without going to a supervisor. Don’t confuse giving things away with solving problems. Free things don’t solve problems. Service solves problems.
Why did they come to your company in the first place? People come to my company because they want us to help them sell more, brand and market themselves better, or help with social media. Me lowering the price does not get them what they want. I have to help them make more sales and increase their income — that solves their problem. If it is apparent that you are unable to help the client, you should escalate to the next level to someone who can. I never say “no” until I have to.
Phone Time Waster #4: Too many phone steps.
Automated phone systems drive people crazy. Hit number one for this, hit number two for that, hit number three — I can’t even remember all the options. Seventy percent are extremely frustrated contacting a company that complicates customer service. Nobody wants to go through a tree of options before speaking to a person.
Sixtyeight percent of customers have switched due to poor customer experience, and 95 percent of those dissatisfied tell others about their bad experience. Make it easy for people. Eliminate all unnecessary steps when a customer calls in.
Phone Time Waster #5: Repeatedly asked for same information.
Eighty percent of customers say the company does not have the context of their last conversation. As a policy, have a standard process for collecting data at the beginning of the interaction. You should have a CRM and be entering data — why they called, what they want, what problem they are trying to solve, who they are and what their position is.
You want data in a CRM so you can quickly pull it up when they call again. There is no reason any customer should have to start over. Most companies just don’t have a commitment to loading information into a CRM with the content of the earlier conversation. If you don’t have a policy of doing always, you will end up with nevers. Customer service costs nothing other than commitment.
Instead of wasting your customer’s time on the phone, commit to becoming great on the phone. Don’t avoid the phone altogether like some companies do. A company that doesn’t provide, or hides, a customer service phone number is not really wanting to service customers.
You want to make it easy for a client to get the information they need. Where’s the phone number? Is the phone number on every web page? Thirtyseven percent abandon purchases because they have questions and can’t find the answer. Eightythree percent of customers shopping online need support to make a purchase. How easy can you make it for people to find the data?
Make it easy by being everywhere. Be on different social media channels, provide contact information — these things don’t cost money. What costs money is not acquiring new customers. The phone is there for you to make money, it’s not a thing to avoid!