'Tis Only My Opinion!

May 1998 - Volume 18, Number 5

Press 1 for Marketing, 2 for Technical Support, 3 for Finance, 4 for Human Resources . . .

I don't know about you but the use of telephone answering devices to direct the caller to the proper person at a company has gotten way out-of-hand to this observer. Perhaps, the friendly voice of a real human being at a company is not considered to be a profit-making center for many of the new corporate managers, but nothing frustrates a customer more than having to listen to 10 options or more to find out information which used to be provided by the operator in a flash.

Try calling the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs Service or the Department of Immigration & Naturalization for a great example of how to frustrate the general public. Comerica Bank is also an example of a company which has become techno-crazy.

One of the tips that I have urged my CEO clients for years to do is to call the company from the road and try to disguise the voice to see how your company image looks to a customer. Some of my clients were amazed the first time they tried it.

Forgetting that the customer pays the bill . . .

Recently, we had the opportunity to attempt to contact the warranty holder for a new high-end notebook computer which had already been serviced once in the first 30 days we owned it for a defective touchpad. That episode only took 2 hours of our time trying to get through to the proper person to authorize our returning the computer to the factory for service.

Then, upon the return of the computer from the factory, the 3-1/2" disk drive was messed up and we could not read any diskettes written on other machines nor read on other machines any diskettes written on the notebook computer. It would appear that we had a major alignment problem with the disk drive upon its return from the factory.

So, again we tried to have the computer serviced. It only took 5-1/2 hours this time to get a RMA. Six times we were cut off by either the person with whom we were talking or when an attempt was made to switch the call to another department. So back to the end of the phone queue. . . "All our customer representatives are busy and the estimated time on hold is 15 minutes. Please do not hang up as your call will be answered in sequence."

This company's refusal to allow their phone rep's to either give out a direct dial number or to use anything other than a first name resulted in our having to explain the problem to three (3) different Carol's. And then we wondered if that was the real first-name.

Through our phone-trace equipment, we discovered later that we had spoken with 5 area codes, 14 different exchanges, and probably 20 different persons in attempting to get one lousy RMA for a $50 part. Unfortunately, we could only obtain the part through the factory as the retail outlet was not allowed to stock parts for this expensive notebook computer.

This company obviously did not value our time as important, nor our need for the part. Despite having a 24 hour replacement warranty, it took 4 days to get the part thanks in part to the company forgetting to mark the FEDEX shipment for Saturday delivery.


Recently, we had an occasion to have a lawyer copy an agreement which he had prepared and we needed to close a transaction. To expedite the matter, we dispatched the client to the lawyer's office and called the lawyer to inform him that the client was on the way. Unfortunately, our call to the lawyer was placed in voice-mail purgatory. We finally got through to the receptionist at the firm, "Push 0 to speak to the operator," who also took the message.

Upon arrival after two hours in traffic, the client got to the reception desk to discover that the lawyer had not copied the agreement yet. Moreover, looking at the phone message box on the receptionist desk, the client saw a slip from our office to the lawyer. Seeing the lawyer in the hall, the client asked him about the papers. Whereupon the lawyer admitted that he only listened to his voice mail messages in the morning before 9 a.m. I guess at $350 per hour you must be efficient and to hell with customer service!

The client's legal bills in this transaction amounted to about $125,000 but he is now looking for a new law firm. The delay caused the closing to slip from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. that date and the client lost the interest on his high 6 figure check for one day. Customer service is important!

Finding a Notary should not be a problem!

But it was! One of our elderly clients needed to have some documents notarized and wanted to set up an appointment at the client's large mega-bank where he had banked for many years. The bank really must love its automated telephone system but I doubt if the customers do. The client had a menu with eight (8) items on the first menu level, none of which answered the client's needs. Finally, in frustration, the client called a small local bank where the operator (a real, live person) gave directions to the client, provided the name of the person to see and set-up a time.

Needless to say, the client has now transferred his operating accounts to the new bank and has instructed us to redeem his large CD's from this large mega-bank as they mature. Losing a million dollar customer was the result of this client's experience in trying to negotiate an automated telephone answering system.

Customer Service is the name of the game . . .

For years, I have stated that ..

"You can build a good company by providing a competitive product and good customer service. And you can build a great company by providing a superior product and the best customer service in your industry."

It seems to me that many companies that have gone techno-crazy have forgotten the very basic point that it is the customer that pays their salaries and keeps them in business. Treat them as a number or as not important and you won't have a company very long!

So . . . what about you? Is there a smiling voice on the end of the phone line when I call up to place a $10, $1,000, or a $1,000,000 order? Or do I get . . . Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Technical Support and then

"Thank you for calling, all of our sales representatives are busy assisting other customers. Do not hang up, the expected hold time is 25 minutes."

And then your ears are bombarded with "Music-on-hold" designed to reduce your brain to mush!

But then ‘Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
May 1998

This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in May 1998.

All rights reserved. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.

Tis Only My Opinion is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among our readers.


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