I have lost count of how many times I called companies and their auto-attendant answered. And after I followed all the prompts to get through to speak with a live person, the auto-attendant says in this phony-friendly tone, “Please hold. Your call is very important to us. We will be with you momentarily.” And then I’m on hold for one hour or even longer.
I’m not against auto-attendants. Au contraire – I find auto-attendants very useful when set up and utilized properly. Auto-attendants help with answering the telephone when all representatives are busy on their telephone lines or when an organization is very large with multiple departments. Although it cannot substitute for the personal, human touch when a live person greets us in a warm, friendly tone and gives us the instant feeling that we are welcome and in good hands with our issue at hand, the auto-attendant helps to avoid that the caller either goes into a voicemail right away or that the call simply remains unanswered or – in the case of a large company – the caller gets the run-around and is transferred many times before finally getting through to the right department. That would not be good. So, when there is a small hold time (for me, small means up to five minutes maximum), I’m fine with it and patiently wait for my call to be answered by a live person.
But when the hold time well exceeds five minutes and goes even beyond one hour, and every sixty seconds the auto-attendant repeats how very important my call is for them and they would be with me momentarily, that creates a very unhappy feeling. The unhappiness increases each time this announcement is repeated. Yes, every sixty seconds I get more impatient and frustrated. Especially, the word “momentarily” – it indicates that there won’t be a long hold time. Any moment now, quickly, a live person will answer. But it doesn’t happen until an hour later. How frustrating and misleading!
A company that deals with high call volumes should be mindful how they set up their auto-attendant. Auto-attendant systems can provide many useful features that cater to the company’s call volume needs. These features can be programmed and account for hold times exceeding a certain amount of time. The recorded messages do not mislead the caller and provide a timely solution for leaving a voicemail and receiving a timely return call.
Having all that said, the best auto-attendant cannot replace the personal, human touch that occurs when a call gets answered by a live person. And repeat customers whose names are remembered are pleasantly greeted with, “Good morning, Marlies. How can we help you today?” In my opinion, the person answering the phone should be titled Director of First Impressions instead of Receptionist or Front Desk Rep, because that is what happens when a live person properly answers the phone call and makes the caller immediately feel welcome. It creates a great impression of their company. This is part of excellent customer service. It’s all about the customer’s experience, and communication via phone calls make up a big part of it. Ideally, you want to make it easy for your customers to reach your company and to get through to a live person who can address their questions or concerns right away.
Each time I need to call an organization with the auto-attendant nightmare, I dread to make the call. And each time I need to call a company where I know a live person answers my call and may even remember my name, I love to make the call.
Do you have an auto-attendant system in your company? You may want to review the recorded messages and features that are set up. If you don’t have an auto-attendant system, your Director of First Impressions may be due for praise for a job well done in how the phones are answered. Either way, your customers will be very thankful for that.