Who Is Answering The Phone?

Jim Luff
Posted on August 11, 2010
GETTING THE RUN-AROUND: When you call a business to ask a question, you expect an answer to your question. From that answer, you can either conduct further business or decide the answer wasn’t what you expected. Either way, that first phone contact is the first impression of your business and no one likes getting the run around.
As a generally impatient person, I expect when I call a business to ask about its product or services to speak to someone right away, ask my question, and get on with my life. You already know my views on pushing “1” for English when I live in America but that isn’t what this column is about.
Today, I found myself on both sides of the fence. I delivered crappy phone service and I received crappy phone service. I got lucky and still got the sale. The company I called was not so lucky and the mistake probably cost them in excess of $750 that was a sure sale. I was calling to place an order.
From my end, I had a night dispatcher that took a call just after midnight. The caller was calling specifically late at night to take advantage of a current special we have on our web site and Facebook page. The offer is called “Cool Days = Cool Prices.” In a nutshell, whatever the temperature is at the time you place your order is the hourly rate you pay for a stretch limousine. I have to give credit here to Bill Faeth of Silver Oak Limousine in Nashville. I stole the idea from him. 
The dispatcher tells the client that he is not sure if the special is still valid since it was introduced in June. The special is still published and I plan to run it until the end of September. For unknown reasons, despite the fact that the client is calling to place a reservation, he tells her it would be best to have someone from management call her in the morning to discuss whether that rate was still available.
Okay, so let me get this right — the client calls to place an order with credit card in hand. She is driven by advertising that we have created to make people call and specifically to increase nighttime reservations for my commission based night dispatchers. And, we ask her to wait for us to call her back? Another dispatcher called her back in the morning, took the order, and collected the commission. We got lucky!
I called a winery today that we regularly visit during wine tasting tours. The purpose of my call was to book a tasting and lunch for 15 people from a major oil company. The client had already decided that they would like to visit four wineries and have lunch at one of them. The wineries were my choice. The lunch was my choice. The budget for lunch was enormous and I expect these corporate level executives probably all plan to purchase wine during the day. 
I call and ask for the tasting room manager. This is someone that I know well and with whom I’m on a first name basis. She isn’t in today. I ask for the assistant tasting room manager. Instead I get transferred to the tasting room and get a server on the phone. I explain to the server the purpose of my call to make arrangements for food and tasting. She says I must speak with someone in management about serving food for a large party. Hello?! I get transferred to the general manager. He tells me that he is not really sure about the date and I would need to talk to the tasting room manager that isn’t in today. Yes, I have been down this road. Next, I speak the assistant tasting room manager. He takes all my information and says that someone will get back to me in the next few days.
Did I mention that I am an impatient person? Being thoroughly disgusted, I hung up and called the assistant tasting room manager’s wife that is the tasting room manager at another winery and promptly booked my lunch and tasting with her. I am sure you know why I selected her winery to book with. There is only one chance to make a first impression and if you make it a bad one, I won’t be back — ever!

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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