Who's Answering Your Phones At Night?

Posted on July 12, 2011 by - Also by this author

Late night phone personnel tend to be less professional.
Have you ever had the occasion to call another limousine service during late night hours? Maybe you employ someone to answer your phones late at night. During a recent meeting of LCT editors, we discussed the possibility of doing a story on phone etiquette and manners of late night phone personnel. We shared stories of calling other companies to be greeted with phrases like, “Limo, can I help you” or “Limousine Service.”
As an operator and an editor, I tend to work on my stories from home in the evening and periodically call companies just to see if I might catch an owner answering the phone at night and conduct an interview. I must say it is quite amusing in many cases. I suppose one factor to consider is that during business hours there are usually multiple people in the office. Everyone can overhear conversations so people probably tend to be more polite, more professional, and more helpful.
Because my calls are recorded, we routinely play back calls to listen to how they were handled. Even within my own organization, I have heard calls that are handled in a rude and snippy way. This is just one good reason to record your phone calls. I have heard phone personnel sound anxious and eager to get off the phone. I have been treated rudely and talked to like I was stupid because I thought an owner might be available at night. It is quite amusing to me when I identify myself as a writer from LCT Magazine and people say, “Who?” What do you mean, who? You work in the limousine business and you have never heard of the largest industry related publication in the world? It makes me want to ask THEM, “Are you stupid?”
Of course, I can’t do that. I have to explain who we are, what we do, and why I am calling. Some will get overly excited about the prospect of their company being featured in a magazine. Some angrily admonish me to “Call back tomorrow!” They don’t even bother to ask if they can take a message for the owner. I usually don’t call back. I just move on to someone else.
Last Friday, I called a well-known limousine service at 11 p.m. I needed a limousine for a rescue run. I had a breakdown in the Los Angeles area. I called my most commonly used affiliate. I’m not naming names, so don’t ask! I could not believe what I was hearing on the other end. Actually, I could barely understand the guy. It wasn’t a foreign accent. It was just a strange dialect that was very difficult to understand. He started sweating me about how his owner doesn’t like late night call outs. Huh? I told him I was an affiliate with a credit card on file, personal friends with his owner, and I needed help. After I got him dialed in on who I was, we were able to proceed. He did an outstanding job of delivering what I needed and staying in communication with me.
On Monday, I called the owner of the company and told him to get rid of that night dispatcher! I voiced the above complaints. He politely informed me that the dispatcher had been with him for just over 20 years and recently had a stroke that left him unable to speak properly, but he was still able to do his job. I apologized for my rude comment. Lesson learned: Don’t assume, and allow for unexpected circumstances. Now, can someone please help me get my foot out of my mouth?

-- Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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