Are you forcing your customers to contact your competition?

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Far too many companies annoy and frustrate their customers before they even communicate with them. In effect, they force them to contact their competition.  They do this by not thinking about how their customers want to get in touch – but instead, they focus on how they want their customers to contact them.

Dave Millett of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox, says that different groups of people will prefer different methods, if you want them to contact you, and not someone else, then you need to focus on what they want – not just what is cheapest for you.

With the growth of social media, people are making contact in a variety of different ways; it may be that you get enquiries via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook etc.  The key is to ensure that you can respond quickly however your customers choose to reach you.

People will choose the easiest option for them – not necessarily the easiest for you.

For those companies that expect their customers to call them, Millett lists the four most common mistakes that will almost certainly put your prospects off doing business with you:

  1. Companies that profiteer by using 0844 or 0871 numbers.  People are now becoming aware that these companies make a profit on every call they receive – even a sales call.  There is a useful website http://www.saynoto0870.com/ which lists many alternative numbers.  Ofcom’s clear calling policy requires companies using these numbers to display the cost of calling them in close proximity to the number wherever and however it is displayed.  But unfortunately, to date, they have been slow to enforce this. But hopefully this will change.
  2. Companies using options such as ‘press 1’, ‘press 2’ etc. to route calls to various departments may not be aware that this will just cause some customers to abandon the call.  At best, they’ll get irritated at having to listen to a number of options only to end up being told to go to the web site.  You can do the maths; if your announcement had four levels of choice and each level has five choices that means you are effectively asking customers to make 625 choices.  How much simpler to speak to someone and say “can I talk to someone about…”
  3. Companies that install systems that prompt users, before they talk to anyone, to enter their account code/customer number etc. and then, having eventually got through to someone, the first thing you are asked is “can I have your account number?”.
  4. Businesses that spend a lot of money playing comforting messages – stressing how important your call is to them. If it were that important why not hire more people to ensure there are enough to answer the calls?  Customers are not fooled!

 

Obviously smaller companies may not be able to afford the more complex options but they still need to consider how they deal with a contact when it is made. For example, should you use an answering service or let a call go to voicemail?  Should someone review all incoming emails and send a ‘holder’ saying ‘thank you for your email, X will be in touch within 48 hours? Should the person in charge of your social media be tasked with replying to contacts via the various social platforms? Or does this require input from someone more senior?

In summary, it should be easy for customers to reach you at zero or little cost to them and in a manner that suits them.  A great test is to pretend to be a customer and contact your own company through different media  – was it a good experience for you?  If not, that is what your customers have to deal with every day.  So, put some thought into how you can improve the experience – if you don’t then your customers could end up contacting your competitors.

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