Think about the interaction that takes place when a potential client calls your company number.
Is it any of the choices below?
A – Friendly recorded voice with instructions for leaving a message (with quick follow-up)
B – Recorded instructions for inputting in the last name of the designated person (which they cannot spell)
C – Live person that is not trained to properly answer questions (so they place people on hold)
D – Live person that is trained in customer service and company operations
If D is your answer then bravo! you probably have a great brand experience. If A is your answer, you may have a great brand that needs some support. If you answered B or C, then you need quite a bit of help or you may be driving away customers without realizing it.
First Contact Holds the Power
Many company owners don’t realize that the first person a potential client contacts, makes the first and strongest impression on the business. Whether it’s in-person, by phone, or online, prospects can decide in less than 10 seconds whether or not to use your services solely based upon that experience.
In a supermarket or department store, the cashier holds much of the power to creating an experience that influences repeat business. Let’s face it, most stores have similar items and sales. If a patron is treated disrespectfully by a rude cashier, the shopper may never return to the store. Furthermore, they will probably tell several of their friends about the bad experience online or in person.
For a physician’s office, the person answering the phone should be trained to answer more important questions, such as insurance acceptance, pre-authorization for tests, preparation instructions for procedures and directions to the office. If the new patient cannot get the right answers to his/her questions, the physician may not even know that they just lost a potential patient to their competitor. Most physicians are in the dark, regarding the first contact’s behavior, since the front desk does such a good job at shielding the doctor from the patient.
Put Your Company to the Test
When I worked at a marketing agency in Nevada, I enjoyed playing the role of a pretend customer whenever we acquired a new client that provided a service. As creative director, I normally did not meet the client at the first meeting, so I was the perfect person to send on this test adventure and experience their services, first hand. To keep the experience honest, we did not notify the client in advance. Sometimes the owner was surprised at the report. In their mind, their company was perfect. How would your company fare in a similar test?
Putting Lipstick on a Pig
The number of companies that poorly train their first contact employees is astounding. A company can spend considerable time and money on creating a new brand identity, positioning statements and tag lines that support a better customer experience, but if the marketing plan isn’t followed and the employees are not re-trained, then the new branding will not make much of a difference. Customers are savvy and know when it’s the same old thing with lipstick and a facelift.
Training for Customer Loyalty
It may take time to train your employees on the details and effort that goes into creating excellent customer service. Conducting sessions that involve role-playing with possible scenarios and past client confrontations are a good way to prepare employees for future interactions. Creating a set policy on conduct and keeping FAQs conveniently accessible can help a great deal. It also helps to have meetings, with open dialog, regarding past experiences and to provide guidance on how to prevent negative behavior from escalating. After all, you want more patients, customers and clients, don’t you?