Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Customers

A lesson in automated phone systems for alarm companies

In America today, more and more businesses have employed some form of automated attendant to answer incoming phone calls. In a few cases this technology actually works fairly well. In most cases, however, it creates a huge deficit when it comes to customers and how they feel about dealing with your company.

How many times have you called a company who you do business with only to be greeted by a plethora of options to push just to get a live person? Oh and, by the way, you’ll need to “Press 1 for English.” What? This company is located in Milwaukee, why am I having to press 1 for English?

Another infuriating automated greeting cheerfully asks me to “Please listen to the entire message as our menu options have changed!” In several cases, the menu options go all the way to 8, and can take over 2 minutes of listening with no way to “zero out” to get to a live operator. In many cases, your callers may try to “zero out” but will be told that the option wasn’t recognized. Then, of course, the options message starts all over again.

OK, let’s turn this back on the alarm industry. Over the past few years, many alarm companies have gone to automated attendant systems. Some of those companies I have called over the past few weeks even let me stay on the phone pushing buttons and listening to options for over four minutes before I actually reached someone’s extension, only to be asked to leave a message. Yes, I am talking about alarm companies -- big alarm companies and small ones alike!

One thing all alarm companies who give great service have in common is that they have a customer-friendly attitude. Viewing customers as the most important part of your job helps create loyal relationships. Great customer service is part of conveying to them the sincere appreciation you have for the fact that they placed their trust with your company to secure their business.

I’ll step out on a limb here and say this: Truly great alarm companies who care about customer loyalty do not employ the use of automated attendants.

More and more, live people answering incoming calls have become the exception to the rule. And at the same time, more and more customers have begun to value personal contact over the phone. Those of you who still answer your phones (and provide reliable service) have created additional value in doing business with your company. That ability for your customer to connect with the company they’re paying (your company!) is a point of differentiation versus doing business with a competitor who uses an automated attendant.

If you still answer your phones with live people, you would do very well to “shop your competition”. Find out who uses automated attendants and who doesn’t. When you call a competitor who uses recorded greetings, try out their system for yourself. See how long it takes you to reach someone. Learn how much time you spend pushing buttons before getting to the person you want. Find out if there is a way to “zero out” or if you’re stuck.

If you take the time to get as much information as possible, you will garner substantial advantages in saving customers who may just want to switch to these competitors. When you do your homework and shop the competition, you can offer your customer an opportunity to call this other company to find out for themselves. You’ll have to ask your customers, is this kind of headache really worth a price savings of $2 or $5 or $10 dollars per month? If they can’t answer their phones, how long will it take them to respond to a service call? And would you even be able to get through the system to request one?

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