Why Don’t We Answer Our Phones?



Yesterday afternoon my phone rang. An older gentleman was looking for computer classes and information about volunteering. He told me he saw my name listed on my agency’s website and because I am the Director of Development I “probably know everything.” If only that were true!

Anyway, the caller was having trouble navigating our website (again, he wants to take computer lessons) and so I hopped on the site and we surfed together. The information he was seeking isn’t under my purview but I knew enough to explain the services and show him where on the site to find the info, and I gave him phone numbers for my colleagues who could further help. In short, I simply provided basic customer service.

As we ended the call the gentleman thanked me profusely and said something that really hit me. He said, “I’m so grateful you answered the phone. I really expected to get your voicemail.” That comment stuck with me the rest of the day. He and I had not spoken before and he doesn’t know my work habits. When I’m in my office and the phone rings I answer it unless I am in a meeting with someone or am on another call. I think the caller’s comment was less about me and more about business in general. He’s become accustomed to leaving voicemail messages and hoping his call is returned. And so have I.

As a society, have we become less willing to have conversations unless we first screen the voicemail message to learn who is calling and what they want? Think about it. By simply answering the phone I exceeded this caller’s expectations.

I like to provide great customer service. I’m learning that in this day and age of calls going to voicemail, emails that go unanswered, and people telegraphing that they’re too busy to help, it really doesn’t take much effort to delight people. That’s kind of sad, but it’s also great news for people who happily put in a little extra effort. We can be superstars!

I’d love your thoughts on this. Has customer service become a thing of the past? Is there anything we can do to bring it back? Hit me in the comments section.

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2 Responses to Why Don’t We Answer Our Phones?

  1. mcgregorsrus says:

    Guilty as charged. I am a phone screener. Both at home and work. At work, if I am working with a challenging family I will let most of my calls go to voicemail. These type of families do not seem to realize I cover three floors as a social worker and that I try to give good care to ALL of my patients. I think we have become such an ‘immediate’ need society. I send a referral for a patient and they want an immediate answer. It takes time. I try to communicate and keep the families in the loop but some will call repeatedly and I do not have time to keep telling them ‘I don’t know’ via telephone . As for home, my close friends know its best to text first then call. With three kids, I try to keep it at a low roar but its hard to hear on the phone. I hadn’t thought about it being a customer service issue though I do ALWAYS call back same day. Good thoughts

    • Pam Brown says:

      There are certainly reasons to screen calls, especially in your line of work. My situation is a bit different.
      One New Year’s Eve I answered my phone and the caller was looking for a charity to accept his year-end donation. He didn’t have an affinity to any particular group; he just needed to unload some cash. He had made several calls before he got to my agency. I was the first to answer the phone, so we got the gift. That was a lesson to me to answer my phone!

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