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Is anyone out there?

It’s pet peeve time.

Promise me that if you ever call my company and are greeted by an automated attendant answering system that you will hunt me down and skin me like a fish. 

I had the unfortunate opportunity recently to have to work with my insurance company, my credit card company and an express package delivery company; all within a few days.  I cannot tell you how much time I have spent cycling through menu after menu after menu just trying to reach a live person. After punching in membership numbers, account numbers, license numbers, once I do get to the live person the first thing they ask is for that same information; again.

How many business texts, lecturers and statistics are out there telling us that how we think about a company is largely based on the first impression we get? How many of us judge people by the first impression we get of them? So why do companies that are theoretically in the customer service business relying on a machine for a first impression?

Every one of us could tell stories about trying to reach the DMV or a local government office, only to end up in an endless circle of voicemails and repeating messages. Try to get an answer to a question from your mortgage holder, your insurance company, not your broker, the company, or your health benefit company without punching through 16 steps in their ever-deepening attendant system. Do any live people work at these companies?

What kind of message does it send to the caller to force them through all these steps?  How important does that caller feel to the company? By the time I finally get a live person, if my patience lasts long enough, I am in a really foul mood. So the poor soul that actually gets to talk to me is starting off in a bad position.

The sad thing is I am finding that ever-smaller companies are going to this kind of system. I know of a company with six employees using this kind of system; why?

In my mind, every employee should be trained in proper telephone etiquette and proper equipment use, how to transfer, forward, etc.

Every caller should be greeted with a live, positive, upbeat, smiling, yes smiling, voice; and within the first three rings. What a great way to tell every caller that they are important to you, and that you are there for them and whatever they need! It’s such an easy thing to do, and so important to the impression people have of you and your company.

Once you’ve answered the phone, don’t let the positive impression stop there. Be sure they get who they need, what information they need, or a promise to get them a response quickly. It’s a small thing, but these small things done poorly are like a thorn that goes unnoticed until it becomes a swollen wound and ends with amputation; that means you’ve lost the client. 

In our industry, we rely on our incredible service on the show floor, and our attention to detail in managing our clients tradeshow programs. Relationships with our clients are built on personal attention. Don’t let all of that go to waste by losing a client in your phone system. If they can’t reach you, I know they can reach me.

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 28 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive.  He is a partner in the trade show and event marketing firm Reveal.  He can be reached at jobermeyer@revealexhibits.com.

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