Automated Call Handling Claptrap

I take back what I’ve long said about IT Managers. Well, maybe not all of it. In any case, here’s one that has thankfully confounded much of his brethren and done something profoundly useful and customer-facing.

Website pleasepress1 has gathered much positive media this past week. And deservedly so.

A seven-year labour of love of an IT Manager, Nigel Clarke was driven potty by automated call handling when trying to phone up customer service lines.

I caught a five-minute Newsnight segment where he recounted lessons from the staggering upwards of 12,000 calls he’d personally made on his mission to make phoning them simpler.

His trick is simple. He’s made shortcuts available on his website. Here’s one typical example, précised from the English press about one particular huge corporation’s unnecessarily frustrating service line;

A home insurance customer wanting to report a water leak would normally have to spend four minutes wading through 78 menu options over seven levels. With the shortcut on the website, you can get there in seconds; just press from the off, 1-3-2-1-1-5-4.

What was fascinating about the interview I saw, was the call centre industry bod next to him. He totally floundered.

He struggled to admit what a great idea this was. He stuttered to mention that he recommended only three menu tiers.

The site’s founder was amazed that the menu options were never on the company’s own website. How can that be? Something so simple.

Of course, not everyone would think to look at the web first, but how about a message up front that voices this, rather than the lame attempts to ‘pitch’ you other products?

Customer service clearly has a long way to go.

And there’s an obvious parallel with solution selling.

In fact there’s two.

The first point is that nothing frustrates a prospect more than having to wait for an answer. Whether they leave a voice message on your phone, or email you, or contact a colleague. They often presume an immediate response.

This may be a harsh expectation, yet how do you handle this now?

I always shake my head disapprovingly to myself when in internal meetings of people I work with. It’s when one person picks up their phone and leaves the room. They explain with real conviction and self-importance that it’s the really important call they’ve been waiting for from a key prospect. Rubbish.

The second observation is that post-purchase care is incredibly important to a buyer. Anything you can bring to their attention that shows how you make this as easy and smooth as possible is a real winner. So if you can demonstrate the kinds of ‘shortcuts’ that no British customer call lines do for your firm, you’ll be in a much stronger place.

Subscribe to Salespodder

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.