There’s a good chance your last call to a company’s customer service began with a robot. And while it’s cool that artificial intelligence technology is beginning to flourish and those previously incredibly mechanical voices on the other end have been softened to almost sound like actual humans, it’s still kind of a letdown. It shouldn’t be surprising then that researchers found out that we are basically hard wired to hate robots.
We’ve grown accustomed to it though and that’s perhaps the worst part. We think that endlessly pushing buttons, hoping to sooner or later arrive at a living breathing human being, but getting lost in a maze of automatons is, or should be, the norm! This is certainly what upsets me the most: the acceptance that we think we don’t deserve to be treated like humans by a human.
So, yeah, if my indignation isn’t enough of a hint—I really loathe automated phone navigation. And it’s not just for personal reasons because I also think that it’s really bad for your business. Here, I’m going to discuss further why your company should move away from automated phone navigation and also offer some better solutions for customer interfacing.
It Shows That You Don’t Value Your Customers
Listen, I know you value your customers and your customers should know that you value them. The problem is, when they have an issue with one of your products and need to repair said problem, the first voice they hear when they call your company is a robot.
I’ve written previously on just how important killer customer service is. Of course it’s important to extend great, personalized customer service to all of your customers, but it’s even more important to give it to Millennials. Millennials are quickly becoming a generation with great buying power and they desperately want to be catered to. They want emails tailored to their interests. They want brands to engage with them personally on social media. They don’t want to seem to be just another face in a vast digital crowd. They want to be noticed.
Why, then, would you ever have an automated phone navigation answer them when they call?
It Leads to Low Morale for Your Employees
After your customers navigate the maze of wrong numbers, wrong categories and have worn out their thumbs pressing the “operator” button, they’ll eventually get to a one of your employees.
Heaven help them both.
I like to think that we’re all rational adults and, for the most part, we are. But when we’ve just gone on an irritating and unnecessarily long sojourn through your automated phone navigation system, some of us get a little heated. It doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it okay, but it happens and it’s horrible for everybody involved.
A 2012 study by the researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that one of the leading causes of low employee morale and burnout is “poor customer outcomes.” Put plainly, when things don’t go well with your customers, your employees begin to suffer. I don’t need to remind you that turnover can be costly.
It Causes Your Customers to Give Up
While not as horrible as having your employees berated, having your customers just hang up when they feel they’ve been on hold too long or that their needs haven’t been met is pretty bad too.
Consider this: 15% of customers will hang up if they’ve been on hold for more than 40 seconds. 40 seconds! That’s how long it takes to pour a cup of coffee or walk across the office. That means they’re not ordering new products or are misusing (or not using) the products they have. Basically, the longer the wait time for your customers means less money in your coffers.
The automated phone navigation system has been around since the 80’s. Take a minute to look around: is there anything within your reach right now that’s from the 80’s?
As I said, it’s not like the technology hasn’t advanced but it’s still, to put it bluntly, total crap. I get it though, if you have a large business with a lot of customers, it can feel almost like there’s no other alternative.
These days, I often suggest using chatbots. Oftentimes your customers navigate first to your website to get your business’s phone number and only then do they put in a call. With a chatbot, you can potentially answer their question directly from your website, especially if it’s a simple one. Chatbots have grown surprisingly intuitive and many people see them as the future of customer service.
Alternatively, you can opt to pair down your automated phone navigation menu to a few simple options or have a failsafe button so your customers can immediately speak with a customer service representative.
It Makes Your Business Look Bad
If none of these reasons is convincing enough for you, perhaps this will be: when combined, these make your business look really, really bad. Like, incompetent bad.
Look at it this way, once your customer has finished berating your employee for something that you were the architect of, do you think they’re going to want to continue being your customer? Or after they’ve hung up after being on hold too long? Or after they feel like your company has devalued them?
Short answer: no.
What’s going to happen is that they’re going to ask for their money back. Best-case scenario: you offer them a deep discount on their next order or future purchases. Either way, you’re losing money and losing esteem in the eyes of your customer.
Automated phone navigation can oftentimes seem like a necessary evil but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Consider your alternatives before you continue using it. Your customers (and your employees) will thank you.