Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Business: 101 - The Phone Call

Everyone has worked in a position where you have to take phone calls.  I do that.  I do that, and I get irritated because there are a few items of interest to note here.  Why do I say so?  Because it is distracting from my whole day, distracting from all the things I must accomplish, and really wastes some time. 

Being that I need to post this, I need to point out that there is the Better Business Bureau for customers to call in on bad businesses--unfortunately, customers call the BBB even when the business is good and the customer is bad, but they have to blame someone.  But, there is not a BCB:  Better Customer Bureau.  If there were, I know I would have some folks' names on that list so businesses would know in advance who NOT to work with.  Why?  Because the customer is NOT always right, and this is from a fella who has won many customer service awards over the years.

So, what?  Well, I hope that this can serve as a start for the BCB.

What does it mean to conduct good business as a Better Customer?  To get that A+ rating?  Well, let's begin with initial contact:  The Phone Call.

I work with an online company and so do not need a dissertation about where you found my number:
"I found you while looking on the internets."  THE internets! Not just any, singular internet.
"I was looking in your online website."  I guess you were looking in my online website on the internets.  If you're looking 'at' my website, I'm certain it must have been online and via the internet.
If you can tell me it was through word of mouth or a mailer, then I want to know all about it.  Who told you?  When did you get the mailer?  Did someone I helped before give you information, or did someone who knew your need offer you the mailer they were sent?

But, thankfully, you DID find me and now I'm happy to help.  But, you found the website and apparently didn't read a single lick of it.
Caller: "I'm looking at Product A, and wonder how much it is?"
Me:  You're looking at it online, right now?
Caller: "Yup, right there on my computer internet."
Me:  Do you see that price to the right of the name of Product A?
Caller: "Yup."
Me:  That's the price.  $1070.

That's right.  The website you are looking at usually has all the answers, and even more under their FAQ's, which is for their Frequently Asked Questions.  Which, by the way, the answer to "What all do I get for that price?" is also listed just below the price.  Right there.  On your computer internet.

Reminds me of a few customers from my insurance sales days:
Caller:  "How much is my bill this mont'?"
Me:  "$1578."
Caller:  "Yup, yeah, that's whut it says right here on my bill."

Honest to God phone call there.  Have you rolled your eyes yet?  If not, read on.

So, keep in mind a personal fact about yourself: Accent.  If you are used to people asking you over and over again, "Can you please repeat that?"  Then, it is likely you have a thick accent and are hard to hear.  Especially on the phone.  When I don't understand that you have said B/P/T/D/V or S/F or C/Z, don't get mad at me.  If I don't understand your name because you said it faster than a New York second, don't get mad at me.  If you have a very  uncommon name and I cannot understand that, don't get mad at me.  You called to talk to someone who is willing to help:  SLOW DOWN.  That clears up a lot of issues with accent, with spelling, with understanding the name you are saying.  Because you are used to hearing how you sound does not mean other folks are used to hearing  how you sound.

Which brings up another point:  Hearing how you sound.  You are important, indeed; but, you are NEVER so important that you must use a speaker phone for all your conversations!  I can't say how many times I speak to the same person over and over again and they are on the speaker phone.  Pick up the receiver and talk to me.  Because, even if you don't have an accent, your voice is going to be harder to hear than it would be if you picked up the danged receiver! 

And speaking of speaker phones, turn off background noise or ask people to shut up.   TV, Radio, and people drown you out when you call, speaker phone or not.  I cannot hear you, and I cannot help you if I don't know what you're saying.  That takes time out of our call together if I have to ask you to repeat yourself.  And when I do, don't get mad at me.

If you are on your land-line and not your cellphone, but your cellphone rings, do us both a favor: Don't answer the cellphone!  I then have to wait while you talk about what you're having for dinner.  Now, I'm patient about such things if it has to do with someone's health or pet or kids; but, when I'm trying to work and I hear, "I think mac-n-cheese with some ham in it will be good," I swear I want to hang up on you.

When you call a company for questions, by the way, expect to get answers.  Plan ahead and have pencil and paper on hand to write down the details of which you are given.  I spend too much time on a phone call answering the same questions OVER and OVER again because you aren't writing down information and you're calling all the details back to me incorrectly.  Also, if someone else needs to know the information:  Write down the details--do NOT put them on the phone to ask the same questions you just asked to which I have to answer the same replies again. 

And speaking of helping:  You called me for help.  I am here to help.  I am glad and happy to help.  Did you know that if you ask a question, I want to answer it; but, I cannot if you continue to  barrage me with questions?  Let me help you.  Don't lead the conversation!  This which I do, that you are calling me because I do it, is something I know.  You do not.  Do not lead the conversation and put words in my mouth that come out of your head that you will remember later because most of what I have to say is consistent for every customer, and that never changes.  If I tell you "approximately 6 to 8 weeks," don't come back to me saying I said 4 weeks--that is a time-schedule that NEVER changes, not for you.  And, by the way, all of that is written on the website so you can't say I said it differently than what is already published.

Now, the website has an online ordering system if you choose to take that route, or I can take the order by phone.  If you want to do the online ordering, do that at home at your leisure and that's fine. I do not need to be on the phone during the whole 20 minutes in which you are deciding details and typing.  By this time, you should have already searched information on the internets and our online website pages to figure out what you want and need.  Of course, I keep offering to take the details by phone since you have me on the line, but I keep getting denied that opportunity to speed things along because you feel the need to keep someone on the line while you poke your way through the website ordering system.    PLEASE let me help you better and let me take the order on the phone.  I promise it will be faster and I can submit the order for you and take care of everything.

So, let's say you called and couldn't reach me.  You'll hear my voice message say, " please leave your name, number, and a brief message..."  And the keyword here is what?  BRIEF!  For example:
"Hi, this is Kevin Williams, my number is 888 257 3130, and I would like to know if Product A can include a third emblem?"  See what I did there?  Brief.  Not a dissertation of my call saying how I found your company on the online website internets.  Don't take 3 minutes to leave a voice message, and don't spill over the numbers in your contact information that I have to hit replay over and over to hear it.  1234567890 is not the same as 123-456-7890, dig?

Never forget that you know your name.  Speak it clearly and leave a space between your first name and last name so Roberto Gagnon doesn't sound like Robberlownone.

I think this is a good start to earning your A+ rating on the BCB, folks.  Learning how to conduct business by the telephone is a good thing.  It doesn't take much more than common sense to know what to do to take care of business and let me help you properly.  It's pretty simple stuff.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 20, 2014 - Birthday #42

My birthday has come along again, which is always a good thing.  Whatever wrinkles I get, and whatever gray hair I may achieve (amid the hair that may still be left), I welcome it.

Years ago, a local radio DJ, Tim Spencer, was complaining on the air about his birthday coming up.  I wondered why?  I mean, the alternative isn't such a good plan.  It seems kind of boring!  So, days later he mentioned me on the air as he read a sympathy card that I mailed him stating, "A reminder that the alternative sucks. Happy Birthday!"  And he agreed.

And birthdays are just that: celebration of life.  Usually with cakes, presents, cards.  I don't need presents.  If you're reading this then you're likely already a gift to me.  If you want to doodle something on copy paper and give that to me, I'll take it.  The gifts created by hand mean more to me than anything else I could be given.  Even more important to me than money, because hand-made, or hand-drawn, is a part of someone and who they are, and that is a great gift.

I can say that the best birthday I ever had was surrounded by tons of my friends and co-workers at Isaac Hayes' restaurant back in the early 2000's.  My friend Di Anne Price was performing on the stage, tickling the ivories, and I was gifted by the presence of so many beautiful, wonderful people.

I posted on Facebook once that: Friends are the best gifts people can give of themselves, and that you can allow yourself to be given.

That is truer as each year goes by.  I make many new friends and am glad to welcome them into my life!  Interesting people, fun people, creative people.  I don't know or hang out with a single person who isn't special in some way.  With that, I am completely blessed.

Sunday morning, August 17, my mom, during conversation, is the first person this year to say, "Happy Birthday," and that is fantastic to me because I am 100%, and without a shadow of a doubt, a mama's boy.  I love my little mama!  She's a nut, so I come by it naturally.

My second surprise, for real, today has been my friends singing Happy Birthday to me over cake and pizza (had I known, I would have skipped stopping by Taco Hell).  I usually notice or catch on, but this was pulled off seamlessly, ha ha.  I had no clue.

So, what will this birthday week have in store for me?  What will the next year?  I don't know.  I do know that as long as I can have my friends be as big a part of my life as they have always been then it will be another great, fun, happy  year for me.

I am truly blessed.

I end this post with a neat picture I found tonight:
August 1976, somewhere between Holly Springs, MS and Gatlinburg, TN.  My parents were taking me to the mountains and we stopped off at this visitor center where there was a teepee and Big Bird and Cookie Monster.  I'm looking through things tonight, and I find the following photo.  Somewhere, there is a photo of me chasing Cookie Monster around as I laugh my butt off because he was scared of the puppet I had of himself.  And this, as you can tell, is a fun photo to me because I was star-struck!  I have always loved Big Bird, even if it wasn't the real one but, as the guy told me and I recall to this day, "I'm his cousin!"