Is auto-attendant slowly killing your business?

Switchboard-operatorWhen auto-attendant replaced "switchboard" operators, they also fueled heated debates whether we should continue to have a human operator or switch to this technology. This was a slow and painful transition and now it seems like the "press 1 for or 2..." dominates our lives. For those of us who were in sales, voicemail was the "kiss of death". Books that were written on the science of bypassing the receptionist/gatekeeper were obsolete. But wait, "if you know your party's extension" you're home free right? What's better than leaving a voicemail for your prospect?" Sadly, we all wish it was that easy - voicemail includes a great option:  "press 7 to delete this message". Gone... and forgotten, back to checking Facebook.

I called my doctor's office today to ask for a medical record. I was on a telephony roller-coaster ride that left me noxious, dizzy and disgusted.  I was patiently waiting for the number to press to reach medical records. I pressed it fearful that the ride wasn't over, and it wasn't. I had to go through another set of  "nested menus". Unfortunately, I was doing business with an entity that had me handcuffed, at least for now. I needed my record and they were the only ones that had it.

Are you this fortunate? (as my medical group obviously is...for now).  Are you in a business that makes your clients 100% dependent on you...with no competitors? Unlikely. There are incredible new technologies at our disposal that have changed how we do business and interact with customers. They are "in the cloud" but still personal - they allow us to connect with customers and if you know how to nurture the connection, you'll do well. Today, we focus on the "customer's experience" as a measurement of how well we connect and stay connected with him/her.

When it comes to other "technologies", like auto-attendant, I believe their time has passed. Years ago when voicemail and auto-attendant was introduced, we had plenty of opportunities to actually speak to each other: Social media or texting did not exist, neither did the bandwidth to enjoy anything on the Net. Remember that annoying modem dial and connect tone?  It was so much easier to just pick up the phone. The internet and social media replaced traditional means of "talking" but they are effective and valuable. I can't say the same about the auto-attendant.

You simply can't provide top-notch customer experience if you ask your callers to get on a torturous Ferris wheel with numbered seats. The cost of frustrated customers who will eventually leave (what I am planning to do with my medical group), far outweighs the salary for a well-trained "director of first-impressions", a title successful companies give their receptionist.

By the way, VOIP (Voice Over IP) telephone systems that dominate the market, offer an incredible array of data on your phones: they can trace incoming and outgoing calls per extension, the time it took to pick up the phone, hang-ups, # of deletes of voicemail and a lot more. Make sure you ask for and get this data. You'll uncover another neglected aspect of customer service and you may even save a customer or two.

So how about this new greeting: "Thank you for calling LEDAZA. Please listen carefully for our menu... has been deleted. A representative will be right with you".

Your thoughts?