[The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased a punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris, author of My Wife and Times. We continue this entertaining series with Daniel’s brilliant insights on ancient snacks. —Ed].
By Daniel Will Harris
Your call is important to us...
I sometimes think I've fallen into an nightmare episode of The Twilight Zone where my particular level of hell is to be consigned to listen to hold recordings until the end of time, not realizing that my life is ebbing away while badly recorded voices tell me "your call is important to us," and the "real people" promised to be at the other end never answer, because (as it's revealed in the last 15 seconds of the show) they're all cobweb-covered skeletons wearing operator headsets.
Lately, that nightmare seems to be happening more and more often and each time I think, "I never want to deal with this company again." The rash of these seemed to start when I tried to return a defective computer to Gateway. I was on hold for a full week (I'm not exaggerating) and their five minutes of endless loop pop music from the 80's nearly had me booking a flight to their corporate office, electric cattle prod in hand.
This week I was consigned to a new level of hell, namely waiting on hold for United Health Care, an insurance company that doesn't seem to understand the mental cruelty it inflicts on hold will mean more doctor visits.
Every thirty seconds, a woman with an accent that made Sue on Survivor sound positively classy would intone, "Your call is important to us. Please wait for the next available operator to assist you."
Of course, if my call was really important, wouldn't they answer faster? The problem with her saying that over and over is that each time she did, I'd think it was the operator and get all set to talk. In between her useless interrupts, a man with a slickly professional voice was extolling the virtue of peanuts, excitedly explaining that they weren't nuts at all, but legumes! (In case I hadn't heard him the first 22 times I'd heard the same message.)
My dream is to force one of the executives at these companies to spend as long as I have on hold, and listen to these badly recorded messages. Then they'd realize the torture they're inflicting.
The point of this rant (and yes, there is a point) is that this is bad customer service. Bad, bad, bad. There are good ways to handle this. The ISPchannel, plays a classical piece by Borodin. It's a 15 minute clip, it's lovely, soothing yet interesting music, and when you're on hold it's simply background music, which is fine. I never get tired of this music. And because they don't tell me my call is important, I am able realize that all by myself.
But the real problem is—people shouldn't have to be on hold at all. These days, I find myself on hold most often when I couldn't get my question answered on the web. See the problem there?
THE WEB IS CUSTOMER SERVICE. All of it. From your product and service information, to content sites to "contact us" pages to pictures of the staff. It's all customer service. For some reason, a lot of companies (and their web sites) don't seem to realize what kind of "experience" they're creating.
Every little thing adds up. When we're done slogging through a site to find something, not finding it, trying to find a phone number, calling it and waiting on hold, we think, "Next time I'll take my business somewhere else."
So what can you do about it on your site? First—make sure your site answers the questions your customers have most often. And make sure those answers are easy to find. Put them on the home page.
Make sure your site shows and explains your products and services as well as it possibly can. The more people can learn from your site, the easier it is for them to make a decision and the less time they have to spend trying to talk to you.
Use a free service like HumanClick to help you answer customer questions (for free) in real time. You don't need an expensive 800 number, your customer can ask questions right through the web. Imagine if you went to a site, had a question and got it answered immediately. Wouldn't you be more likely to go back to that site and perhaps buy something? I would—and have.
And remember—LIFE IS THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE. When you stop and actually think about where you are, what you're doing, and how it feels, it's much easier to decide what you need to do differently, for yourself, and others.