A few weeks back, I was asked to place an order for one of my coordinators. “No problem,” I thought, “this should be a quick phone call.” I phoned the salesperson listed on the quote and was greeted by a voicemail that told me they were on vacation (no timetable for their return) and advised me NOT to leave a message. Really? Ok. For attempt number two, I called the company’s direct line and instead of being able to speak to a person who could help me I was greeted with a number of confusing options, none of which appeared to be sales or customer service. I hit zero on my phone and was put on hold. When someone picked up and I explained my dilemma I was told that they weren’t positive, but they thought I should speak with Sales. After I hastily agreed, I was transferred there and got the voicemail of another salesperson. Two days later that salesperson returned my call and after I explained myself again I was told that I really should speak with the salesperson that had sent the quote over. For the third time over the course of three days, I explained that I had unsuccessfully attempted to do this, only to be rebuffed by his out of office message. When the salesperson told me that their colleague would be returning next week “he thought”, I explained to him that if they could not help me place my order today that I would find another company that could. Suddenly, they were very helpful.
What can we learn from this experience? Quite a bit actually. First of all, automated messages may save you some time in answering common questions or directing people to the proper source, but I think everyone appreciates the personal touch of an organization that has an actual person picking up their phone during business hours. What a novel concept! Secondly, if you do not know the answer to someone’s question, find it. I do not ever want to hear the phrases “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” unless they are followed by “but let me find that out for you”. Finally, when you get passed around repeatedly, the easiest solution is to go somewhere else. If you are not the person that can help me, then . . . and get ready for this, it is a real doozy . . . how about finding someone that can?
The lessons from this story are many, but they all boil down to making sure that you and your staff are present. It is a simple concept, but making sure that you are willing and able to assist your client base goes a long way towards furthering your performance and reputation. This does not mean that you should be available 24/7 or that you should not be taking personal time. What it does mean is that your clients understand how they can get what they need, when they need it. For instance, if you are not available during regular business hours, is someone else on your staff ready to step up and assist or will the customer be brushed off? We have all had those miserable experiences as customers from time to time, but ask yourself this; when you do have a miserable customer experience, are you likely to go back? We are all consumers of differing varieties whether you are a student-athlete, patient, or just a person looking to buy a pair of sneakers. If your customers cannot get what they need from you, it will not be long before they start looking somewhere else.
Shaun Bossio is the Assistant Business Manager and ProShop Manager at Boston University FitRec.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org