November – Answer the &%!$# Phone

Have you ever been frustrated when calling a service company for your personal business or even another city or county department? You need to talk to someone in order to complete a task or get needed information, but instead, the phone rings and rings and eventually goes to an answering machine. You leave a message and either hear back in a day or two or never hear back.

Think how your customers feel!

I have recently made (tried to make would be a better phrase) quite a few phone calls to former clients, potential sub-consultants for a major contract I am bidding, and a variety of cities and counties for an article I am writing. What I found was:

  1. Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, and more rings, and eventually an answering machine.
  2. Answering machine messages that are never answered or answered in two or three days.

Many of these calls were to planning departments with a dozen or more employees. Couldn’t at least one person be assigned to answer the phone?

I have noted that a high percentage of my business is now handled by email and we get less and less phone calls. But, when we do get a call, we answer the #*! phone. I now have most of my calls go directly to my cell phone which I carry with me (and answer) at all times.

You will be amazed how the stature of your department will improve if you just answer the telephone. Try these ideas:

  • Direct lines to all employees with phone numbers and specialties listed on the website.
  • Pick up the phone in no more than three rings.
  • If a call goes to voice mail, have it go on the third or fourth ring.
  • Require all employees to answer their phones.
  • If there are lots of phone calls, designate one or more staff to be trained and assigned to answer the phone.
  • For large departments with lots of call and many people in a queue, purchase the software or equipment that allows the caller to leave a name and number and be called back without losing their place in the queue.
  • Have a policy that all telephone voice mails are to be returned before the end of the day. No one goes home at night until they have returned all of their voice mails.
  • Emails should also be returned the same day received.

We are in the information age, so let’s act like it!

I feel better already.

the Management Doctor