This July Only: Save 30% on PRO with code SUMMER30 »

Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 616,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
N E X T
Text:  A A

Living Your Brand Includes Telephone Calls, Too!

by   |    |  6 views

I had two crummy telephone experiences recently -- both to my home number and both leaving a poor brand impression. These telephone reps, who make and receive calls on behalf of their organizations, surely have plenty of influence on their brands. So why would organizations risk so much by placing poorly-trained staff so close to their consumers?


The first call came from an organization I truly admire and respect. It was a pre-recorded message asking me to donate goods and clothing. I could have just hung up, but I took exception with being solicited on a major religious holiday and wanted to bring it to the management's attention. So, I called the toll-free number stated in the recording.
I explained that I wanted to advise the organization of the insensitivity of the inbound call on my holy day, to which she apologized first and then responded by saying, "I did not call you," totally absolving responsibility on behalf of her employer. She asked if I wanted to be taken off the call list, and after I asked if that was permanent, she said it would be. This action, of course, would have eliminated me from future solicitations, a move that would be detrimental to the organization.
When I asked why she did not offer to bring this issue to senior management, she replied that I did not give her that option and that is not her job. When I asked who is responsible for outbound automated calls, she said she had no idea. She was defensive, ill-prepared for such an issue, curt and border-line rude.
It's not that I didn't want to give; it's that I thought they could show more sensitivity by refraining from outbound calls on the holiest days of my religious calendar. I doubt they make calls on Christmas Day, so why can't they just check the major holy days of the top 2-3 minority religions in the country and show the same respect? Am I in La-La Land to expect this? Isn't this about diversity and inclusiveness?
The second call came from an advocacy organization asking me to participate in a 15-minute survey on my current health care plan. I first asked if my being in marketing disqualified me, to which the caller said it didn't.
I asked for clarification on the first quantitative question asking me to rate my overall satisfaction level from 1 to 10. My satisfaction compared to what? Other providers in the market, pricing, service, coverage? I'm not a market research expert, but my response would glean useless information unless I understood what I was rating.
After the second question, which was also generic and similar in style to the first, I again indicated my confusion as to what I was being asked to rate. The rep cursorily thanked me and hung up on me - after about three minutes into the 15-minute interview! So, here I am, agreeing to participate in a survey on a Sunday afternoon and she hangs up on me!
Both these situations are examples of poor brand experiences. As a result, I can tell others what happened and identify the two organizations (bad word-of-mouth) or I can cancel my membership, support, or participation in these organizations (attrition). Instead, I'm blogging about it to help shed light on this so maybe, just maybe, someone on the inside will read it and make some changes.
Why don't organizations and companies do a better job training their telephone personnel? This touchpoint has a huge bearing on the brand. Any comments, suggestions, other stories? Let's share. It'll be cathartic. :)


Join over 616,000 marketing professionals, and gain access to thousands of marketing resources! Don't worry ... it's FREE!

WANT TO READ MORE?
SIGN UP TODAY ... IT'S FREE!

We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:

Loading...

A Canadian who relocated to the U.S., Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of SOLUTIONS Marketing & Consulting LLC, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. During her career, Elaine has worked for, and with, many organizations, associations, and businesses, across North America, on marketing strategy and communications tactics.

From her earlier agency career assignments freelance copywriting Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation, and Kraft materials, to “inside” senior-level marketing positions, Elaine’s passion for marketing has evolved to helping clients reach new heights through strategic brand-building, integrated marketing communications, and customer orientation.

She has been a contributing writer for The Business Journal and her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marketing News, The Arizona Republic, Advancing Philanthropy, and several association publications. She has been interviewed by CNN, Connect Magazine, and The Capitol Times, and her content was included in Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. Nonprofit Consulting Essentials by Penelope Cagney. and Share of Mind, Share of Heart by Sybil F. Stershic.

Elaine is a Faculty Associate at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and a professional member of the National Speakers Association – she does keynotes and presentations on business and nonprofit marketing, branding, customer orientation, and cause marketing at conferences and meetings.

Elaine’s career has also included stints as a cookbook author, teacher, singer, and television show host. A golf and tennis enthusiast, Elaine is enjoying life in the sunny Sonoran Desert while serving clients across North America.

Solutions Marketing & Consulting: solutionsmc.net

Speaking: elainefogel.com

Elaine's Blog: http://elainefogel.net

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment

Comments

  • by Haile Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    As a small business owner, it is so hard to know how to train employees in good phone customer service. I can't listen to every call, I ask them to be friendly and speak to customers the way they would like to be spoken to. But I still end up with unhappy customers - that don't have to be unhappy. I can't hire a consultant, or pay to fly someone to a seminar. Do you (or anyone?) have any resources for really small business to share?

  • by Kevin Horne Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    "So why would organizations risk so much by placing poorly-trained staff so close to their consumers?" Because it's easier (or someone deemed it more important ?) to get a new logo, tagline, or hire an intern to go on Twitter, than it is to have marketing and customer service get together and work out the real details of customer/brand experience. C'mon Elaine, give us a harder question next time! ;))))

  • by Paul Barsch Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    Elaine, a few thoughts. I suspect the person on the end of the line for the non-profit was a volunteer, and the tele- research firm was outsourced. There is little personal financial incentive in either case to provide excellent customer service. Lining up incentives to service sometimes fixes these things- but human beings can just be so darn unpredictable. Bring on the robots! :)

  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, Haile. There are many excellent customer service training books around. A good one for small businesses is Customer Satisfaction is Worthless; Customer Loyalty is Priceless by Jeffrey Gitomer. Have you considered collaborating with a few local businesses to share the cost of staff customer training? Check your local Chamber of Commerce, too. Maybe it can organize something in your city. (FYI, I do this for groups.) Kevin, I should have known better! :) Paul, in the first scenario, the rep works for a different division of the same organization. I received a reply to my letter to them and they said they would bring it to the attention of the leader of that division. It wasn't a volunteer, but, in reality, even if it were, volunteer training is also crucial in living the brand. It is possible that the second organization was using an outsourced call center. I tried to find a way to advise them of my experience, but the only way one can contact them is by snail mail. No options on the Web site. That's another pet peeve of mine. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Paul. Always love what you have to say.

  • by Strategic Growth Advisors Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, Elaine. This is a wonderful resource for all entrepreneurs who are thinking (or already using) telephone representatives to boost their business's prominence.

  • by Strategic Growth Advisors Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, Elaine. This is a wonderful resource for all entrepreneurs who are thinking (or already using) of telephone representatives to boost their business's prominence.

  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Oct 8, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, SGA. I wonder why telephone service is often at the bottom of the heap. Any ideas?

  • by Jon Fri Oct 9, 2009 via blog

    Elaine I had a terrible experience a month ago when looking at suits I still can't believe big companies that claim they have great customer service employ staff like you described or why they don't provide better training. Here is my story, I was in a clothing store looking at suits one sales assistant came to assist me I tried on a jacket but told him I was only browsing, I must mention I told him this twice. Then after I had tried on a jacket he took me across to look at trousers and for a third time I said I was only looking he picked a pair of trousers he thought would fit me then asked if I wanted to try them on and I said again for the fourth time no I'm only looking. He then tutted at me sighed and walked off to pester a customer next to me...all I can say is I haven't been back in the shop since and I instantly posted an update to my Twitter and Facebook accounts and I have received no response via Twitter. In these times if you are to have bad sales assistants/customer service reps at least have a social media presence to monitor the backlash.

  • by Tessa Carroll Fri Oct 9, 2009 via blog

    I completely agree with Kevin. Most businesses still don't quite deem it necessary to have an open line of communication between marketing and customer service. Many businesses haven't realized that the way customers are treated via the phone or email affects their brand's image just as much as face to face interaction with customer service reps. It's a shame. And it could be the downfall of many businesses/organizations. Tessa Carroll VBP OutSourcing www.blogs.vbpoutsourcing.com

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Oct 9, 2009 via blog

    Jon, your story doesn't surprise me. Unfortunately. Hard-selling salespeople turn off a lot of people. Did this guy even ask you one question as part of his pitch? Tessa, you're right. There's often a disconnect between marketing and customer service. In fact, there are silos all over the place in many businesses. Does the word, "holistic" mean anything????? :)

  • by Philip McLean Fri Oct 9, 2009 via blog

    Elaine, we've all complained about the same thing over and over. The same company that will spend $3 million on a Super Bowl ad will drive customers away by hiring the cheapest possible customer service they can find ... in all possible senses of the word "cheap". I guess it's too much work to do it right.

  • by Barbara Phillips Long Sat Oct 10, 2009 via blog

    As long as decision-makers in companies look down on call center staff members as untrained, unskilled help and pay them accordingly to keep irritants at bay, telephone experiences will be bad. As soon as business decision-makers understand skilled call center staff can provide valuable business intelligence and customer retention services and pays those workers accordingly, then telephone experiences will improve. But it requires shifting financial resources from the executive salary and benefits pool to a group of employees who are currently poorly paid and managed. It also requires a 180 degree change in management attitude toward customer service call centers. We'll know there's a major change in customer service ahead when the stock markets shove stock prices up each time companies announce they're shifting resources to redesigned, re-envisioned call centers with direct pipelines to company marketing, strategy, and product development gurus in the executive offices.

  • by Rahel Bailie Mon Oct 12, 2009 via blog

    There's an Association of Support Professionals who ponder over all these questions and more, for those who are interested (asponline.com). I have had similar experiences - a storage container delivery on Yom Kippur, with 24 hours to empty is - and got a similar reaction from staff. My ex used to say: remember that if they had the smarts to be doing something else, they wouldn't be in that job - a reminder to be gentle and patient. Their management? Well, that's another story. I often ask for a manager to get put on the "remove from auto-dial" list when anything comes up that the front line staff don't have authority to tackle. It's a conundrum, though, I agree. It damages brand, sometimes irreparably.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Oct 12, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, Philip. Your point is well taken. It is mind boggling to say the least. Barbara, amen to that! Can't wait. :) I agree, Rahel. It can damage brand irreparably. Makes you wonder why it continues. :(

  • by Jack Swenson Fri Oct 16, 2009 via blog

    I agree with your assessment of the telephone and its role in branding, but I find it curious your take on how business should do business on the holidays of, your words, "minority religions." How are these 2-3 religions to be chosen? Is this really about poor customer service or more of a stance on how unaware non-Jewish Americans are of Jewish Holidays? Your comparison to Christmas is emotional not rational. The difference? Christmas in the United States is a national holiday. Banks and government are closed. Are these businesses to know your race and religion? Guess? Ask you? Why not just turn your phone off those days? Are you suggesting that businesses cease from doing business on these minority religion holidays? As to the post that "if these people had the smarts to be doing something else, they wouldn't be in that job," how demeaning and insulting is that? It reminds me of the English teachers in school who think the brilliant scientist in their class is stupid because he can't spell. You don't know. Maybe that person working in the phone room is a poet. A brilliant musician. A physics student. A mother of four. An athlete. Elaine, I like the idea on branding and agree that phone rooms don't often provide the best experience, but it sounds like you have a bigger axe to grind than with a phone room customer service rep and the inability of her management to train her better.

  • by Customer Experience Partners Fri Oct 16, 2009 via blog

    Insensitivity to religious holy days and time of day are clearly part of the problem. Failure to recognize that at every single point of contact customers are gathering "data" about how the corporation or non-profit treats them is another. We hear a lot about how handling of inbound contacts is critical, but so is the attitude we hear expressed on outbound calls. As consumer we really use just about everything that we see, hear, touch, taste or smell that's related to a given brand to make our future buying or charitable contribution decisions. Organizations that put the various contacts in different internal silos fail to realize that it's all part of the same brand experience.

  • by Elaine Fogel Sat Oct 17, 2009 via blog

    Jack, thanks for your comments. I am not suggesting that businesses refrain from doing business on my holy days. However, I admit to being sensitive to a lack of respect shown by some organizations who plan "public" activities on those two days. Examples: association meetings, public forums, special launches, etc. Costco held its grand opening in my neighborhood on Rosh Hashanah. That wasn't cool, in my opinion, especially since I am an executive member and would have liked to participate. The reason I contacted the call center was because of this first matter, but when I experienced such poor customer service, the situation was exacerbated. So, I am able to segregate the two. Nothing will likely change about recognizing minority religions, but something can surely be done to improve telephone customer service. One update. I received an official response letter from the second organization and it was so well written that I will use it as an example (during my workshops) of a great customer service response.

  • by Elaine Fogel Sat Oct 17, 2009 via blog

    Jack, thanks for your comments. I am not suggesting that businesses refrain from doing business on my holy days. However, I admit to being sensitive to a lack of respect shown by some organizations who plan "public" activities on those two days. Examples: association meetings, public forums, special launches, etc. Costco held its grand opening in my neighborhood on Rosh Hashanah. That wasn't cool, in my opinion, especially since I am an executive member and would have liked to participate. The reason I contacted the call center was because of this first matter, but when I experienced such poor customer service, the situation was exacerbated. So, I am able to segregate the two. Nothing will likely change about recognizing minority religions, but something can surely be done to improve telephone customer service. Thanks, Customer Experience Partners for your input. Right or wrong, sensitive or not, I agree that we are evaluating these organizations every time we have contact with them. One update. I received an official response letter from the second organization and it was so well written that I will use it as an example (during my workshops) of a great customer service response.

  • by cheap jordan shoes Mon Oct 19, 2009 via blog

    Your article is very interesting, I have introduced a lot of friends look at this article, the content of the articles there will be a lot of attractive people to appreciate, I have to thank you such an article.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Oct 19, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, cheap jordan shoes!

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!