What’s Your Customer’s Choice?

Connecting with customers and prospects today, and delivering superior service, is an ongoing challenge. There are so many ways to communicate – social, email, text, phone, and so on. It’s important that we use all the tools available to reach our target markets … not just the ones we enjoy or find more convenient. When we limit ourselves to our preferences, instead of our customers’ preferences, we can damage our brand, create frustration, and destroy loyalty.

Recent phone stories provide some excellent examples of how our communication choices can impact our customers. How can we balance being busy with delivering great service?

My Twitter colleague Dimitra Chronopoulos shared this story of her experiences during our long weekend in April:

I found myself calling several places to confirm their hours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday because the hours posted on Google maps and on company websites were their “regular” hours which may not have applied (as Google maps profiles explicitly told me). Namely, I called a couple of restaurants, a computer store and a fabric store. I was pretty sure everyone would be closed on Sunday, but I wasn’t sure about Monday.

Not one call was answered, and there were no voicemail messages. In one case (maybe two), I got the dial tone/buzz for a fax machine (and then I went back online to ensure that I had actually dialed a phone number and not a fax machine, and yes, it was a phone number).

As a business, if you’re going to have and advertise a phone number, shouldn’t you at least have a current voicemail message that tells people if/when you’re open or closed? Or, if you don’t want or can’t remember to update your message before all holidays, shouldn’t you make sure your website provides that information?

I’m pretty sure that Dimitra was not the only one who called those locations looking for information. While it’s understandable that a busy store or restaurant may not always be able to answer a phone, they still need to serve those customers who call them. This is why voicemail was invented – to be a receptionist.

It’s possible that the store and restaurant owners, and their staff, don’t like talking on the phone. It doesn’t matter because … their customers do. There’s no doubt that both revenue and opportunity were lost due to this lack of communication.

My own experience is with companies that do have voicemail … and a message that immediately directs me to their website. I have to admit this makes me crazy! I chose the name of my first corporate website over 20 years ago. I know how to go to a website and get information. If I’m calling you, then I’m a customer that wants to speak to someone.

Recently I had a Twitter conversation about this with Telus. I had called a local store to see if they had something in stock, and I reached voicemail. The first request on the message was that I go to the website followed by an explanation that the store was busy and then a beep. While I wasn’t surprised the store was busy, what bothered me was the content and quality of the message. It’s so easy to create a welcoming message that offers information and delivers service to customers who prefer to make a phone call. Here’s my suggestion:

You’ve reached Telus at (address). We’re sorry we’re missing your call. We are currently serving in-store customers. Know that we check voicemail regularly and we will call you back as soon as possible. If it’s convenient, we invite you to drop by our store. We’d love to meet you. And, of course, service is also available at our website at (address). “

What are your thoughts and experiences? You can share them in the comments section below.


2 thoughts on “What’s Your Customer’s Choice?”

  1. Hi Mary Jane,
    As you know, I rarely respond to things I read (I love to read your blog… and a few others!) but I have had a couple of voicemail experiences lately that made me want to add to the conversation. I have had two experiences in the last week where I was asked to pick a number for the most appropriate service (four times and three times). In both cases, there was not an appropriate response (what i needed was not one of the choices). In both cases, I tried 9 and # and 0 but still couldn’t find someone to talk to me. I have no idea to this day whether there was a way to contact the business and get an answer to my question (and yes I tried online too!). You are so right – telling our customers how to reach us easily is a real plus (and I would dare to say a ‘no-brainer’)!

    • Thanks for your comment, Stephanie. Sometimes there is no way to reach a person in real time and that is incredibly frustrating. Sometimes the option to reach staff exists within one of the several choices. For example, when calling my credit card company, my ability to simply choose to speak to an agent is not available until I’ve worked through three number menus first and listened to all of the fourth menu, where the last option is “If you wish to speak to a representative … .” The same can be true when calling CRA. When this option is not available at all, and there is no obvious alternative on the website, if the company is publicly traded, both the investment executive and the public relations executive will have phone numbers available at the website. Call them and ask for their help. If this doesn’t work, head over to LinkedIn and enter the company name. See what employee names you can find and then see if, by spelling their name in part of the company’s phone system, you can reach them or leave them voicemail. Stephanie, I think you’ve given me another blog post!


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