August 25, 2015

Just Answer The Darn Phone

By Paul Bieber

I use a CPAP machine to help me sleep. This is a machine that blows heated, humidified air on my face. Not fancy, but very helpful for me. It is available only by prescription. My current machine is seven years old, and I am due for a new one.

Here’s my story and how it will help you in the glass business.

I googled CPAP machines to see what is new in the marketplace. A lot has changed, as my machine is, like I said, seven years old; the machines now have clocks and radios and gizmos galore. I learned a lot just by reading on the net.

This afternoon, I started calling the local medical supply companies to get more information. There are three in town. The one I deal with currently doesn’t have the greatest customer service, so I thought it would be time to switch. I called the first one on their 800 number, listened to the menu, and there was a number to hit for new customers. This sounded good; they had a special team for people like me. After five or six minutes on hold, with no music or announcements, I hung up.

I called the second one and received a recorded message that the office was closed and to leave a number. This was around 2 p.m. Couldn’t be a big company. Made me think twice about buying a medical device from someone who didn’t answer their phone.

I went back to the first one thinking that maybe I had punched in the wrong numbers. I went through the phone tree, new customers, on hold, and three minutes later, a meek women’s voice came on the phone asking if she could help me. I told what I was interested in, and lo and behold, she knew nothing about it. Their store is just 10 miles from my house, so I asked if I could stop in and see a machine. She said she couldn’t set that up. I asked her where she was and she replied, “Offshore.”  I asked her if I could speak to someone at the store, and she switched me into the same phone tree I had been in before. Hung up.

There are plenty of vendors on line, but I wanted someone local. Well, I tried a couple of the on-liners anyway, and none of them take insurance. They have cheap prices and lots of splashy color on their web sites, but I have to deal with Medicare. Hang up.

I called the place I do business with now; the lady who answered knew my name and took care of me in three minutes, insurance and all.

Hey you, out there reading this blog. Take a hint. Answer your phone. You’ll get more business by being a person in business than being so high-tech that your customers hang up on you. Keep your phone tree short. Make sure the person who answers knows how to get an answer for your customer and does so promptly. Return your customers’ calls ASAP. 

When you answer the phone, as you pick up the handset, smile. I promise you that customers can hear that smile through the phone. It sets your tone. Say your name and offer to help. Sometimes, you have to let a call go to voicemail, but the kid who answered the phone said you were in. Call back as quickly as you can, explaining you were in a conference or on another line. Answer the phone on the first or second ring. Don’t wait for four or five. If your switchboard closes at 5 p.m., but you work until 7 p..m., make sure your customers can reach you. Same thing early in the morning.

Let vendors know they can call during a set time…say 4-5 p.m. Bunch your callbacks to non-customers during that same period. 

In the age of web sites, email and twitter, a personal contact will always earn more business, at least in our industry.