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21 Jun

Is your telephone set-up dedicated to delivering high levels of customer service? Have you got efficient hunt groups in place which ensure that calls are answered as swiftly as possible? Do you have direct or dedicated lines for key contacts?

Hopefully the answer to the above is emphatically ‘yes.’ Sadly however, it appears that for some businesses, customer calls are still seen as a bit of an afterthought. One recent survey revealed that 67% of small business owners were struggling to deal with suppliers that still blamed poor customer service on the pandemic. As a result of that poor service, time was being wasted whilst on hold, whilst being passed between call handlers, or even in waiting for a solution which could not be resolved in a single call.

That is time which might better be spent on managing the business; particularly in these challenging times. In May 2022 the Office for National Statistics reported that whilst the Consumer Price Index stood at 9%, producer input price inflation had risen to 18.6%. This led the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair, Martin McTague, to comment that_ “The gulf between the rate of input and consumer price growth underscores the efforts of businesses to absorb costs rather than pass them on. Small firms in particular find it hard to pass higher operating costs onto customers, fearing that doing so will hamper competitiveness.”

When businesses are faced with rising prices and competitive pressure it can be tempting to focus inwards in a bid to contain costs. But costs are only one side of the profitability balance with sales sitting on the other. Businesses understand this and that is why they try to keep prices low in a bid to retain customers.

However, competitive prices are not the only way to attract customers and poor customer service is one sure way of encouraging customers to look elsewhere. That’s why surveys such as the one mentioned above are so concerning. If businesses are delivering such poor levels of telephone service to fellow businesses then what sort of service are end customers receiving?

For businesses which are struggling to ‘do more with less’ in order to keep costs down, reeling in on customer call handling may seem an obvious answer. After all, when websites can be populated with FAQs and sales moved online why do you even need to speak to customers? Well, there are times when FAQs are not enough and when prospective purchasers need to have a discussion in order to decide whether to go ahead with their purchase. When calls remain unanswered or when callers are shuffled between departments with no sign of a resolution that’s a recipe for lost custom.

Switchboards can be programmed to manage calls so that callers are swiftly transferred to the right area of the company. And with a little training in call handling people can feel empowered to manage meaningful conversations and deliver acceptable resolutions. If that helps other businesses and individual customers to make effective buying decisions then that’s a win-win for turnover and customer satisfaction.


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