Receptionists ... Automated Phone Systems ...
September 27, 2016
I remember being in a managers meeting at a station where we were all handed the Disney Institute book, "Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service." Exceeding expectations was expected from every Disney employee at all levels. Each time I try and call the business line at any radio station, that book pops into my head.
Live Assists & Who's In Charge?
A lot of listeners already think terrestrial radio is just a voice from an audio source. We don't need to feed into that line of reasoning with automated phone systems, too. I am talking about the days when a receptionist answered the phones during business hours and actually took messages. Here is another related lost courtesy, the listener knowing who the PD or MD is; some of these automated phone systems ask you to spell the name of the intended, but if you don't know who the person is, you can wind up in general voicemail messaging. Why do so many stations not make program department information available? Take a look at a lot of the station websites, many don't have either the positions listed or the names of the PD or MD posted. I really don't understand the reasoning behind any of this.
Terrestrial/traditional radio has always been an inanimate object for listeners, so a little effort in the direct contact area can go a long way. I am sure you are as happy as I am when you don't have to deal with some long-winded 'Simon-says' kind of automated phone system. I especially hate the ones that if you press zero, it puts you at another prompt instead of an actual person to talk to.
Receptionist Are Worth It
For what it's worth, I believe a receptionist wins out over any automated phone system. It is bad enough there are so many instruction variations, misdirected extension routes, dropped connections, or general confusion on what to press to leave a message. Seriously, I understand cutting costs. These systems are less expensive than paying a receptionist, but you'll never know how many listeners and potential clients have gotten frustrated and never called back. Some things require the personal touch; you may have to go through a few people to get a good receptionist, but they are the first line of offense for your company. Receptionists are an invaluable resource; I have utilized them to get a pulse of an office or redirect potential problems. Speaking on the behalf of all receptionists, please take the time to let them know about all contests, promotions, and general information; they are the face of your organization.
More Personal Touches ... Return Calls and Messages
When someone actually makes it through the 'robotic' phone system and leaves a message, you should return the call within 24 to 48 hours. On a given weekday with tons of calls, e-mails, Facebook/ LinkedIn messages, and written notes left on your desk, it's difficult to get back with everyone; but you have to. Never miss an opportunity to connect. Think back to the last time you left a message and did not hear back from the person. You probably got upset or thought you were being ignored. Give everybody the same courtesy you expect from them. Also, if you return a call and have to leave a message, don't leave a long rambling speech; get to the point of your call. When it comes to e-mail or social media, an online response only takes a few seconds to draft.
The personal touch goes a long way with advertisers and listeners. Phone systems won't track you down for the call you've been waiting for all day. They also can't tell you what contest winners are talking about when they come to pick up prizes. Yes, the promotion department will be the one to bring out the goodies, but while waiting, it's amazing what can be found out about your morning show or something your competitor is doing.
I know, many of you have spent a lot of money to put in a system, but how much humanity and actual dollars are being lost because no one wants to call again and get lost in phone system hell. Don't you love it when you automatically punch # to leave a message in an attempt to avoid listening to a long list of options; however, the system immediately points out that you've selected incorrectly. Then out of fear for mis-selecting again, you listen to the entire list and in the end you're told one of your options is to just hang up to leave the message. Come on, really!
I applaud the stations still employing a receptionist and reflecting the simple principle of exceeding expectations.