Before I dive into how to handle customer inquiries, I want to tell you about an expression I used often when I was in the telecom business:
Ring no answer means click no business.
I was inspired to write this post as a result of my futile efforts to get in contact with a company that I possibly wanted to do business with. After multiple contact attempts, I concluded that if the company is that difficult to get in contact with on the sales side, they’re likely equally or even more disorganized on the administrative side.
Is your phone and web presence scaring away customers?
Here’s the back story.
I’ve reviewed my asset allocation strategy many times, not only in my book, but also in many of my blog posts, so you should know that a large component of my portfolio is held in fixed income (bonds, GICs, T-bills).
I read an article recently in one of the Canadian business magazines that referenced a Canadian company that specializes in GICs. After reading a few of their blog posts, I decided that maybe it was time for a call.
After multiple failed attempts to connect with them by web and phone, I decided that I didn’t want to do business with them but—and more importantly—decided to write this blog post to share with you how important it is that your small business doesn’t make the same mistakes. After all, you work so hard to attract customers to your website that once they’re there, you want to make sure that you optimize for conversion.
The company’s phone number is prominently displayed at the top right corner of their website, and the contact button is in the navigation bar. So far, so good.
I clicked on the contact button, and at the bottom of the page there is a CONTACT US form. Again, good job.
I would have suggested better placement of the form on the page, rather than at the bottom of the contact us page, but at least they have a form on their site.
I filled out the form. Name, email address, subject, message, a CAPTCHA, and a submit button. The only problem is, the submit button appears to be broken.
I clicked on submit, and the form never submitted. The little wheel just spun and spun. In fact, I started writing this blog post at 11:30 a.m, took a break for lunch, and when I came back to my computer at 1 p.m., the little icon was still spinning.
Their contact us page doesn’t list a sales email address, so I had no choice but to call them.
The number is answered by an auto-attendant that says, “Thank you for calling ABC Company. If you know the extension of the person you wish to reach, please enter it now. For a directory, press 1. For sales, press 2. Although the auto-attendant message was way too long (I’ve given you a synopsized version), at least they have an option for sales.
I press 2 for sales and end up in someone’s voice mail.
I press 0 for service and end up in the same person’s voicemail.
If you’re going to provide an option for sales, you MUST always answer the sales queue. I don’t care how busy you are, when the sales phone rings, it’s all hands on deck.
Answer the damn phone. For starters, that’s how to handle customer inquiries.
I hang up and call back. This time I press 0 from the main auto-attendant. Someone answers. I ask the person for the email address for the sales dept. She says, “Hold on,” and transfers me to the same person’s voicemail box.
I hang up and call back once again. I press 0. Someone answers the phone, I hear a few seconds of some background noise, and then CLICK.
I hang up and call back once again. By this point, I am quite sure I have no interest in doing business with the company, but for my own interest’s sake, I am curious what will happen.
Someone answers. This time I say to the person, “Please don’t transfer me. I just want the email address of someone in sales.” She says to hold on one second. She was actually rude. I get the voicemail once again.
I hang up and call back once again. Once again, some background noise and then CLICK. I’m now thinking that this is definitely not how to handle customer inquiries.
I’m now determined to get in touch with the company, not because I want to do business with them, but because I want to provide them some background on what happened during my correspondence with them.
By this point, I’m thinking … “This is how you don’t run your business. I have to share this with my readers.”
I do a LinkedIn search for the company, find one of the principals, and send them an email. In the email, I explain that I am a frustrated customer looking to get in contact with someone to discuss GICs The president responds with an apology and suggests that we arrange a phone call. I respond and suggest the next day at 10 a.m. Unfortunately, I never heard back from him.
11 Clever Tips On How to Handle Customer Inquiries:
- Your contact form should be prominently displayed at the top of the contact us page. In fact, the form should be on every page. And don’t use the word “Submit.” You need to be more creative with words like “Contact Us for More Sales Info” or “Get Better Rates Now.”
- The form should clearly indicate that the customer info from the form will be completely confidential and that you won’t spam them.
- The form should indicate how long it will take to get in touch with the customer. For example, let them know that a salesperson will be in touch within 2 business hours (for example).
- Most importantly, your form MUST work. Test it often. And when someone does fill out the form, do these three things:
- Send them to a thank-you page that converts
- Send an email to someone in sales letting them know of the sales lead (and CC someone in senior management), and
- Start them on an email drip campaign
- Your contact us page should also have a sales email address listed. Some people aren’t comfortable filling out the form. When someone does email sales, you need to respond within 10 to 15 minutes.
- Your auto-attendant (should you choose to answer by auto-attendant) should state, right at the beginning of the message, “Thank you for calling Company ABC. For sales press 1 and for service press 2. If you know the extension of the person … The auto-attendant should be short and sweet, and the sales and service options should be right at the beginning.
- Always answer the phone. Quickly. No matter what. Whether the call is sales or service-related, you should never send a caller to voicemail.
- Never blind transfer a caller to an individual’s extension or voicemail box. Whoever is answering the phones should always make sure that the recipient is going to answer the phone before the call is transferred. If there’s no one there, politely tell the caller, “I’m sorry. Bob is away from his desk. Would you like me to take a message, would you like voicemail, or is there something I can help you with?”
It is so expensive to find a new client. Don’t chase them away with a poorly designed website that doesn’t convert, an auto-attendant that is way too wordy, phones that don’t get answered, a rude receptionist, or poor customer service. Doing any one of the above is a bad sign. Doing all of the above is a business’s death sentence, and definitely not how to handle customer inquiries.
Before you go, I think you might be interested in reading this post titled: Do you Have the Most Important Trait Required to Become a Millionaire?
And here’s another: How to Start All Negotiations Like a Champ. You Must Know This One Thing
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