Today I was put on hold twice. Nothing particularly unusual in that regard, I make tonnes of calls during the day and find myself on hold, waiting for a page and being transferred plenty of times each day. What was particularly interesting was the contrast between the two “on-hold” experiences. Let me recap…
Call 1. The Marketing Message Wait: National Travel Agent. On hold for 4 minutes. Put on hold by personal assistant, to listen to “hold music” consisting of a 2 minute loop of the companies marketing message, detailing what the company can potentially do for me and how convenient they are to deal with (what with more than 200 locations Australia-wide – do I have to say Ironical??).
Call 2. The Radio Message Wait: National Real Estate Agent. On hold for 5 minutes. Put on hold by secretary, listening to 5 minutes of a national radio program.
I don’t know about you, but when I am put on hold I can get a bit irritable. Frustrated? Sure! Bored? You bet. Is this the best time to be marketing your company to me in an impersonal way? HELL NO!
In the first call, the Travel Agent's marketing department obviously was trying to take advantage of utilising every available opportunity to deliver to their customer's the “marketing message”. I was on hold. I was bored. I was irritated. Did they try to solve my problem? No. Was this a useful marketing exercise? I highly doubt it. Despite the repetitive name recognition that the marketing loop perhaps embedded into my head, telling someone how good you are when you are causing them irritation and inconvenience does not work.
Although, as marketers, we need to take advantage of any touch-point that we can identify with our customers, we also have to make sure we are choosing the right moments to interact with our customers, and that the message and conversation we have with them matches specific circumstances of the interaction.
Try this for example. Go up to someone you love. Punch them in the arm. Then tell them you love them. Wait. Do it again. If you manage to survive the next 20 seconds without being punched or screamed at, try it again. The person will be confused, probably wary of when you next approach them, and my guess is that they will start to think you are a bit of a prick. The problem is that the two messages that you are giving the person do not match each other.
When I was put on hold to the radio, sure this wasn’t ideal, but I was certainly less bored, not annoyed by boring marketing messages, and also got to catch up with the latest Christina Aguilera song!
What is wrong with sincerely apologising to your customers for the inconvenience? Solve their problem!!! If your customers are bored, entertain them. If they don’t have enough, or the correct information to be able to interact with you business easily, efficiently and quickly, give them this information.Now nobody likes being put on hold.
Nobody likes to be forced to line up in a supermarket for 5 minutes, for the privilege of paying for their items. But sometimes the inconveniences we cause our customers are unavoidable (despite our best intentions). The key to excellent customer service is, what are you going to do for your customers in response to causing this inconvenience and the privilege of having their attention?