The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
Your call is important to us...
By Daniel Will Harris
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
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
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"
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
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.