“Thanks for calling. Please hold.”

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bigstock-Frustrated-business-man-on-the-34534550Booking flights online is easy but making changes could be challenging especially when the itinerary covers several cities. I needed to make some last minute changes to a trip. I thought if I called the airline directly, its agent could find what I needed much quicker. To my surprise, when I placed the call, the message indicated that the wait time was between 1-2 hours. When I heard that, I hanged up. The wait time is unacceptable. If the strategy was to deter customers from calling, then the airline was successful.

In serving your customers, you need to think about the customer experience. Consider the customer needs. They want:

  • Answers to questions—There likely is a common set of questions that most customers share. They could be addressed by posting the standard responses on the website, or archiving a brief response on the interactive voice response (IVR) system for callers. For the odd questions, you need to figure out how best to interact with your customer. Does it require a live conversation? Would an email be sufficient?
  • Quick responses—Thanks to the advance of the internet, there is the expectation for timely, if not immediate, responses. Most customers are accustomed to the ‘self help’ idea. Encourage ‘self help’ whenever possible as customers are savvy in looking up information on the internet. But you have to make the website easy to navigate. If the other option is to contact your call centre, would the customer have to hold for long?
  • Convenience—The business hours for a physical store or a call centre could be restricted to a limited number of hours. That is inconvenient when the customer has to wait till you are open to make a purchase, return a product, or address an inquiry. What could you do to make it more flexible with the customer touch points?
  • Options—Apart from face-to-face interactions, there are numerous ways to serve your customers. An informative IVR can handle simple queries. A user-friendly website is on 24×7. To add a human touch to online support, live-chat is an option. However, not all options are suitable for every scenario. You need to exercise your business acumen to determine what is best for the situation.

Your business exists to serve the customers. Failure to meet expectation is a sure way to lose them. Every touch point with the customers is an opportunity to wow or turn them away, even the loyal ones. Don’t make them hold for too long when they call!

© Connie Siu 2013. All rights reserved.

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