Monday, September 19, 2011

The Telphone and Poor Customer Service

We have been auditing the customer service on campuses for quite a while now and it seems that telephone use is getting worse and worse. Telephone use and protocols are becoming a real problem for schools. Simply put, people do not know how to use the telephone anymore nor do they do very well with voice mail. They don’t know how the telephone is a marketing and customer service tool not just something that gets in their way when it rings.

Schools can lose 12% of potential enrollment when potential students make their first actual contact with the college. That’s right. Your school loses students who are interested in attending when they take the steps required to make a positive decision to enroll.

This should not surprise anyone who ever heard about first impressions or has read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. But oddly enough, when I talk with school administrators, “12% off the top” comes as a surprise. Until they objectively look at they call into to an office on campus.

I have been getting plenty of calls lately from administrators who have been getting complaints from callers to their schools, staff members and trustees. There are numerous issues people call and complain about. But a recent common theme has been complaints over phones being answered in a rude, indifferent, and offensive manner. It seems that people answering phones have been doing so while distracted, angry or apparently annoyed at having to answer the phone. And these attitudes clearly affect tone, and voice style.

I don’t know but I guess there is something offsetting about a person answering the phone with “Yuh. What?” or with a very bored and indifferent NameofCollege WhatCanIDoForYuh?” And the tone that accompanies that is so often very negative telling the caller that he or she is disturbing the answerer. As we call around to schools to test the customer service on the telephone last week, we hit the best response yet. The person picked up the phone and just said “What?”

And little tells a person he or she is unwanted than being “dissed” on the phone. If a student gets the feeling that he or she is not wanted from an early or first phone call, it can be an uphill battle to retain the student’s interest in attending the school. And it is so simple to assure that people answer the phone in a friendly manner.

Here is one quick and inexpensive customer service solution. Mirrors.
Yes. Mirrors. Go to a local craft store and buy simple, small mirrors and double-sided tape. Give the mirror with the tape to everyone who might answer a phone. Have them tape the mirror to a spot level with their face or where they could easily see their face when they go to answer the phone. Then have everyone look into the mirror and smile before picking up a phone. All they need to do is retain the smile when saying “hello, how can I help you?” Problem solved.

It is a simple fact that when a person is smiling, he or she cannot answer the phone with an angry or negative tone. In fact, the caller will hear the smile come through in the voice. This may not eliminate all the phone protocol issues a school will have but it will certainly help.

Another telephone customer service solution TRAINING
Training. People do not use the phone well anymore and need to be trained how to answer it. They need to be taught how to get their mind into a mellow welcoming tone before answering the phone. They need to learn a set response such as “Hello, this is (name) Thank you for calling (school name). How may I assist you?” This answering script gets a number of things right. It incorporates give-a-name get-a-name and then goes on to offer assistance.

They also need to be taught to answer the phone before it rings for the fourth time. Four rings is the limit on how many times a phone should ring. After four, it is often voice mail or the person hangs up thinking it will go to voicemail.

And voicemail!!!!! It is actually there as a tool for the caller. It is not a default situation that allows the answerer to ignore the call. People really do not care for voicemail too much believing (quite often rightly so) that it will not be responded to. This is the situation we have found at many schools. People let phones go to voicemail so they are not disturbed but do not return the calls. And if they do more than 24 hours pass.

Voicemail logs must be cleared every day by actually getting back to the callers. At the very least, a voicemail should be returned within 24 hours. Not everyone can be Southwest Airlines which takes the number of a caller in the queue and gets back to him or her within ten minutes or less but any school should demand and make sure that people return voicemails within 24 hours or less.

If this article has value for you, you'll want to get a copy of the best-selling book The Power of Retention by clicking here.

N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 

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