Have you noticed that many things take more time lately, lately meaning since COVID-19? This is especially true when you call a physician’s office or a pharmacy. Once the phone is answered (not by a live voice, of course, but with an automated message) you might as well put the phone down and pick it back up five minutes later. By then the automated message about COVID precautions, address, directions, hours of operation, etc. may be over and you can then try to figure out how to get to the right person or department to answer your question. I am amazed at the waste of time involved in all of this. By the time a live person who can answer your question is on the line you may be so frustrated that you have forgotten why you called! After having this experience again today I thought it might be appropriate to think through how we navigate these experiences and remain calm.
It would be nice if the businesses we call thought through what their callers need to know and do, not what they want to tell us! It would be nice if there was an option to press a number to get the information we need, which may not be the same information other callers need. Do I really need to hear a message about the address and directions, when I have been to that office or business before? Does every caller need all of the COVID information, as long as we have all been dealing with this? If so, it can be an option to press a button for that. Perhaps we all do need to be told to wear a mask or we will not be able to come into the facility, but by now we should even know that.
Well, we probably will continue to have the experiences of having to listen to a lot of unnecessary information when we call businesses. I doubt that we should expect businesses to all of a sudden figure out what their callers need to know and change their internal systems to give that to us in an efficient manner. So, short of continuing to be frustrated and even becoming more so, what should we do?
First of all, and perhaps most important, we should expect things to take longer than usual during these times. We should make sure we have plenty of time before calling any business. And while it is tempting to put the phone down, so we don’t have to listen to all of the information that we don’t need, that is risky. We don’t want to have to call back and go through all of that again if what seems like five minutes really isn’t that long and we fail to press the right number if/when we are given instructions by the automated messenger. Patience is required.
We should be nice. Everyone, or at least many people, are struggling through all of this. What we all need more of is consideration, kindness, and patience. We should listen well, be clear in how we communicate, and only give the information that is needed, no more, and no less. We may need to make notes of what information we need, so we do not forget something important when we are talking with the person who can help us.
While there are some people who like to social chit chat, and there are times when that is appropriate, this time isn’t one of those. Our most valuable resource is time, and we need to be considerate of others’ time.
Customer service is more important now than ever before. Many businesses have not survived the pandemic, and more will fail. Business owners need to do everything they can to serve their customers. Wasting the customers’ time will only make it easier for those customers to take their business elsewhere.
Staff need be friendly and efficient. Thankfully, most usually are, especially during these times. I have noticed an improvement in this since COVID-19. But friendly and efficient staff will only go so far in serving the customer. The businesses’ systems also need to also be friendly and efficient. Systems that waste the customers’ time, such as automated messages that give useless information, damage the customer relationship before an interaction with a live person is even possible.
I have used the following quote for many years in my customer service work. “People don’t fail, systems do.” More often than not when a business fails to serve its customers well it is due to poor systems, not ineffective people.
Business owners and leaders need to call their business and experience what their customers experience. They should evaluate whether the automated message delivers the most commonly needed information in an efficient manner, giving the caller options for additional information.
This is the time to be our best and do our best. This is certainly true on the individual level. It is just as true for businesses.