Start Up Blog

The authentic phone message challenge

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 16, 2010

I’ll start by saying the concept of getting customers to “hold” on a telephone is a pretty bad idea. Then I’ll tell this story….

Today I was on hold for Optus telecommunications, which gave me a reasonably standard phone message:

“Your call is important to us. At this time we experiencing high demand for our telephone support staff, and we’ll be with you as quickly as we can. Please hold the line for the first available operator.”

Here’s what I seriously would prefer to hear:

“We’ve made a deliberate choice to only have X number of people to answer our phones. They are incredibly expensive and having any more than this would impact our profit too much. We’ve done studies which have worked out the number of people that hang up for waiting too long, and how much revenue the average phone call generates or loses for us. The number of people employed to answer our phones is just about optimal. We check this every few months. The average wait is about 5 minutes, so it’s a cool idea to put the phone on load speaker while you wait. Then you can do other stuff. If we answer and you’re not at the phone immediately, we’ll do you the the same favour of waiting a bit while you run to the phone to talk to us once we actually answer. We hope you appreciate our honesty. We reckon it’s better than giving you a load of shit that tells you how important you are. Cheers.

And so the challenge goes out to any startup or business is prepared to develop the worlds first authentic phone message be sure to let us know here at Startup blog so we can spread the awesomeness.

There’ll also be a prize for the best comment with a phone number to a company that has a message of this ilk – and the prize is $100 Amazon gift voucher.

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Your call

(read in digital voice)

Hello, (pause)

Your call is important to us. We are unable to take you call at this time. (what?)

If you wish to change your account details press 1

If you’d like to listen to your account balance press 2

If you’d like to make a payment press 3

If you’d like to hear these options again press 4

If you wish to talk to an operator press 0 – the expected wait time is: 17 minutes…..

I hang up. My call is not important to them.

What surprises me is that companies spend millions on TV advertising attempting to create an interaction with potential customers who aren’t listening. Then when people try to interact with the same company, they get given the machine – the finger.

Most companies invest in the wrong area.  Automation is only a benefit when it increases interactions with people. When it facilitates the conversation, not circumvents it. It’s a classic case of balance sheet marketing.

Everything big companies do here is wrong.

Start ups: Talk to your people. Give them a real phone number to ring with a real person at the end of the line. Be there when they call. Have a conversation. Make it personal. Over invest in this area.

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