5 Simple Steps to Alleviate Your Customers’ Phone Frustrations

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing at the RSPA

A philosophy professor of mine (many, many years ago) would occasionally walk into our classroom, drop his briefcase on the front table, lean on the podium, and bluntly announce, “I’m angry.” He would then take three to five minutes to emote what was gnawing at him.

I’m going to channel Fr. Dipre today and say to you, “I’m frustrated.” And I bet so are your customers.

A part of my job for years has been calling VARs and ISVs, and it’s been increasingly difficult to get them on the phone. I don’t mean they’re playing hooky; I mean when you call their main phone line, connecting with a human often takes a Herculean effort or is Mission Impossible.

Think I’m just being cranky? Let me share what I’ve experienced reaching out to several different solution providers:

  • I’m presented a menu of seven different options where I want my call routed. After considering for five seconds which number to press, I hear a robotic voice say “exiting the system – goodbye” and then I’m disconnected.
  • The only automated phone attendant options are to reach sales, service, or accounting – no option for general inquiries and no option to press 0 to speak with someone.
  • I call in the morning and choose the option to reach sales, but nobody answers. So I call back again in the afternoon and still no answer. In the sales department!
  • I choose to navigate the company directory, but I’m told the three employee names I enter didn’t match the system, and pressing 0 doesn’t get me to an operator, so now what do I do?
  • The automated attendant says, “Press 0 to speak with an operator.” So I do, and nobody answers – the phone just keeps ringing.
  • I press 0, nobody answers, but the general voice mail box message says my call is very important and they’ll respond right away. I leave a message and never hear back. Is “general voice mail box” just another name for “inquiry graveyard?”
  • I get through to a person and he says he’ll look in their directory for the employee I’m trying to connect with. After about 20 seconds, he says, “S**t, I’m not seeing it now.”
  • Finally, why am I told by almost every auto attendant “our options have changed so please listen carefully” and then after I listen carefully I notice the options are exactly the same as a year ago?

I’m not the only one who feels this way. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, 75% of people surveyed want human interaction vs. automated interaction. And when I help RSPA members conduct Customer Health Checkup surveys, the most common merchant complaint isn’t about price. It’s frustrations related to connecting with a human being in a timely manner. Examples:

  • “Calling customer service takes hours even days to get back to the business.”
  • “(I need) more prompt customer service. I realize you have your team on the road, but sometimes it’s like playing phone-tag and [employee name redacted] sending to me to 3 extensions none of which land.”

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  • “With service I’d like to be able to talk to a rep immediately, not have to wait for a call back that never comes.”
  • “I used to LOVE your [name redacted] support. When we first began using your services, customer service was efficient. Now the wait time has extended by more than double, sometimes taking hours to hear back. When you’re running a busy restaurant and your POS is acting up, hours are detrimental to the flow of the business day. Unacceptable.”

Your response time doesn’t have to be a sore subject. I conducted Customer Health Checkups recently for two RSPA members who received high scores and glowing reviews about their customer service. One VAR said he’s so confident about his phone support he’ll test it with a prospect during the sales process. He’ll say, “In front of me right now on speaker phone, call the support line of another solution you’re considering and then call my support line. See who you think is more helpful.” Are you brave enough to do that?

If you haven’t already embraced the following best practices related to your phone system, please consider them:

1. Make sure an employee or your auto attendant answers the phone within two rings.

2. Make the auto attendant message as succinct as possible. Do you know one way you can make that message more succinct? By not including the sentence, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed.” Follow this link for suggested auto attendant scripts.

3. Early on in the auto attendant message, give callers the option to press 0 at any time to talk with a human. And then make sure somebody answers within two rings. You’re not the 911 call center, but you should act like you are.

4. Offer a company directory dial-by-name so callers can reach directly who they want without jumping through several steps or talking with multiple members of your team.

5. Set a quarterly alert on your electronic calendar to call the phone number(s) displayed on your website to test if your answering system is being executed as you designed.

If you want to see what “good” looks like in the reseller phone system world, take a moment right now to dial 203-287-2977. That’s the number for RSPA VAR member NHCR in Connecticut. I called recently and they executed flawlessly on steps 1 through 3 above. After listening to my options, I pressed zero, a friendly woman answered after one ring, and then she transferred me to the person I was calling for.

I wasn’t monitoring my blood pressure during this process, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t rise one tick. For a change.

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Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Marketing for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is also author of The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. For more information, contact JRoddy@GoRSPA.org.