Do me a favor. Stop reading this right now, pick up the phone, and call your company’s main number.
You’re still reading…
Did you hear me?
Report back here after you’re done.
How did it go? If you’re one of the lucky few, your answer might be, “Great! Why did you ask me to do that, Clifford?” For most of you, the pit in your stomach told you everything you needed to know before even dialing.
Why are so many of our companies great at designing, installing, and servicing technology solutions but our own customer experience leaves much to be desired? Here are a few common customer experience scenarios I’ve experienced calling into all sorts of companies lately:
- Voicemail — No frills here. Just a guarantee that someone else besides you is getting the job. “Leave a message and we’ll call you back.” Most prospective customers hang up at this point. You’ll never meet them.
- Answering Service — One step above voicemail. We’re talking to someone now, just not someone who knows anything about the business or the products you sell. They can repeat back to you the phonetic spelling of your first and last name with a vague promise that someone will return your call later. “Later,” as it turns out, varies widely and could be tomorrow, next week, or the 12th of Never.
- Administrative Staff — We’re starting to win here. Now we’re talking to someone who actually works for your company, but, alas, they’re not technically trained so aren’t able to answer many product questions or pre-qualify any sales inquiries. Without any triage, everything gets dumped into a big message hopper for someone to inevitably “call you back.” This “call you back” workflow is maddening and once again a huge turnoff for prospects and customers. Imagine submitting a search to Google and being told they’ll be back into touch with you in the order the query was received?
- Inside Sales Staff — This one isn’t that common, but getting to a place where our industry needs to be. Here’s the challenge, and why most CI companies don’t have this in place: How do we afford to staff one of these folks to sit around and just answer calls all day?
Also by Henry Clifford: Are You Leaving Customers With A Bad Taste In Their Mouths?
No matter which bucket your company falls into, I’m guessing you’re always trying to improve customer experience. Here are some thoughts on how we could all suck a little less at handling inbound prospects and customers:
- Email – Consider hooking up your [email protected] address to a CRM like Salesforce or Zoho so that the inbound inquiries go into a central trough where salespeople can feed on a first-in, first-out basis (no cherry picking!)
- Phone — If you can’t staff your phones with employees (especially your sales lines), consider partnering with a company like OneVision or Parasol [full disclosure: I’m a co-founder of Parasol] where they can take all your inbound calls, even turning them into booked appointments. Once you have that kind of workflow cranking from your phone system, it’s hard to look back.
- Web — Can your customers schedule appointments on your website? A contact form doesn’t count. If you don’t have a booking capability on your website that can be used by employees, customers, prospects, and third-party answering services, you’re wasting time and losing sales. Here’s an example of how we handle this at my company, Livewire: https://www.getlivewire.com/bookings/.
- Text — I’m not talking about an owner being able to text with key customers. I’m talking about proper business messaging. If your customers can’t text with you, you’re missing out on an entire swath of clients who don’t want to talk with you. Services like Podium, Apple Business Chat, Zendesk, and others can enable clients to interact with your staff in real-time. Make sure you staff this or partner with an outfit who can pretend they’re you. It’s worse to have a service like this with long reply times than not having it at all.
- Chat — Adding chat to your website is a great way to grab tire kickers and turn them into buyers. We added One Firefly’s Lead Concierge chat to our site a few years ago and it’s producing over $100k per year in closed business.
No matter how amazing your customer experience is, it could always be better. If you made it this far without calling into your company, give it a whirl and let nausea drive you to a better place.
Also by Henry Clifford: Should You Become an Electrician?
What will you do today to improve your inbound prospect and customer experience?
Stay frosty, and see you in the field.