Is your voice mail menu user friendly?
Gordon Matthews, the inventor of voice mail, says he never anticipated his automated message system would be used to confuse and frustrate business callers. He didn’t foresee how many ways businesses could misuse his system.
“There’s not anybody who really cares about using voice messaging the way I envisioned it,” he says.
When asked what aggravates them most about modern phone communication, the majority of people will say it’s voice mail. Pressed for details, they say that it’s the automated answering process that companies use to screen and direct calls that bugs them, not the basic messaging-taking function used by individuals.
Companies are spending large sums of money on automated voice mail systems to save money and personnel. With growing frequency the result is to antagonize their customers. It only seems to be getting worse. Voice mail menus have added one more barrier between the company and the customer.
When a person needs help with a problem and can’t reach another human, the situation deteriorates rapidly.
Using the numbers on your touch tone pad is fine when you want to verify your bank balance, pay a bill or have a dry newspaper delivered. But when your plumbing is backing up, your new computer has crashed or a tree just fell on your new SUV, having to wade through the many options of a call processing system may not be the solution you were seeking.
And not to I mention that once you figure out — or think you have figured out — which numbers to press, you then have to listen to a voice that says “All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers. Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold for next available representative.”
The message that the customer hears is “Your time is not important to us so we don’t care how long you have to wait on hold.”
How about the voice mail menu that tells you if you know your party’s extension, you can enter it at any time. If you don’t know their extension, you are told that you can enter the first three letters of the party’s last name. So what happens when you have no clue how to spell the last name? Or even what the last name is?
From the company’s point of view, there are advantages to an automated system. It saves money in salaries and benefits. It is occasionally efficient in getting the customer to the right department or individual without having to play the “Let me transfer your call” game.
Often the prompts are confusing and working through the menu can be more time-consuming than speaking to a “live” person to begin with. Some people just don’t like talking to machines and might decide to choose your competitor who uses a more customer friendly answering system.
If your company uses an automated system to process calls, make sure it provides the best customer service by following these suggestions:
1. Keep your greeting short and sweet. No one cares that your menu options may have recently changed. They only want to know what options they have now.
2. List your menu options according to popular usage.
3. Tell callers how to reach another human early in the process.
4. Think twice before using voice mail for customer service issues.
5. Survey your customers from time to time to see how they feel about your voice mail system.
6. Try calling your own system occasionally and find out first hand what your customers are experiencing.
Voice mail can be an incredible asset to your business or an incredible pain for your customers. Don’t force innocent people to spend their valuable time in your voice mail jail.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or go to her website at www.mannersthatsell.com to leave a comment, ask a question or receive more information about her services.