Small Business Tip: Humans Should Answer Your Phone

As large companies get bigger and depersonalize themselves to save labor costs, they expose their vulnerability to Small Businesses. However, many Small Businesses miss opportunities to capitalize on this Small vs. Big Business competition by trying too hard to emulate their larger foes. They should be trying to differentiate themselves from Big Biz practices that cause their customers to scream in dismay at times. For today, let’s hone in on phone calls.

A large number of big companies put you through an obstacle course to get an answer to your question. First you are told to push one of two buttons, to select the language you want to converse in with a machine that refuses to even chuckle at your best lines. Then you are directed to pick one of four choices, then one of five, then one of three, etc. Sometimes none of their choices fit, so you push 0 and hope you hit the lottery and get an operator from another country. If you are so lucky, you then ask questions like I would like to know the name of your Marketing Director, the head of Small Business, etc. You might be told that they don’t know or most likely we can’t tell you. This answer would also be applicable if you were to ask for an email address.

There are many points in your odyssey, particularly when you first dial and the computer voice tells you to hold, but they appreciate your call and that this phone call may be monitored to ensure better service (a lie). As you hold and listen to music you did not select, a computer will periodically interrupt and tell you they have a heavy volume of calls that day and someone will be with you shortly. The latest in technology in this scenario is that the company won’t let you hold indefinitely. No, they don’t ask for your number so they can call you back. They automatically cut you off with a recording saying “Good bye” or “You have been kicked from this conference.” This actually happened to me recently with one of our major phone companies.

So, please Small Businesses of America, have a real human person with a pleasant demeanor and some brain power answer your phones. This Director of First Impressions will pay off in a big way. I have no quarrel with using technology, but it should help, not hurt you. If the person calling your company is told by your Director of First Impressions that they are not in, they could offer the caller a choice of leaving a message with the operator or being connected to the  person they are calling’s voice mail.

Personalize your relationships, and you will be on the way to acquiring and keeping loyal customers.

Would love to hear any Big Company phone stories of import that you have experienced.

5 Responses to “Small Business Tip: Humans Should Answer Your Phone”

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  1. Jeffrey Hahn says:

    I totally agree with you regarding the personal touch of a human answering the phones. At my small CPA firm which has been in business for over 25 years, we pride ourselves on not only answering each and every call with a friendly voice but on returning them in under 24 hours. In fact most of our clients are impressed that the receptionist recognizes their voice after a while. I can’t tell you how much goodwill is built up by this approach. Many times the “good old ways” are still the “best ways” of doing business and building your business.

  2. Bob,

    I’ve learned to deal with the “on hold” time. I sort & sift email and news alerts in my Google reader.

    What bothers me more is the game of transfer tag and having to repeat my story a jillion times. I’m sure you know that one. Earlier today it went like this—no, we don’t have those records here; try this other number; who told you to call us; why are you asking me that?

    I’m a pretty good researcher and known for my tenacity, but I feel like I’m losing the battle to find out if my late husband had any pension benefits due him from a company he retired from about 10 years ago and which has undergone half a dozen or so mergers, consolidations, and reorganizations since that time.

    I’ve talked to seven different people so far and know nothing more than when I started my investigation about 10 days ago. Sheesh.

    Based on his retirement date, shouldn’t somebody have the data that shows who administers the plan(s) he was covered under? Isn’t that an easy question?


    • bobreiss says:

      Thanks for your comment and sorry for your loss. You might consider writing the president of the company ,describing your problem and how poorly his people have treated you. I would lay out all the details in a clinical manner.It has worked for me many times.Surely not all. Many CEO’s have no clue as to what is happening in the trenches and may appreciate your letter and move to solve your problem.Good luck……Bob

  3. Bob,

    Thanks for your suggestion. Old fashioned letter writing might just do the trick.


  4. Thanks in advance for your kind and generous input.