Make Sure Your Customer’s Calls Aren’t Going into a Black Hole

Outer Space Black Hole

Does this sound familiar? You call someone, leave a voice mail and later they say they never got your message. Between friends, this is something that’s usually shrugged off and you move on. However, if it’s your customers that are trying to call you, the ramifications are more serious.

Even with the multitude of options available – social, text, chat, apps and web forms – the main phone line remains a key channel for most businesses in communicating with their customers. And, new telecommunications software such as VOIP, soft phones and auto attendants offer flexible, inexpensive options for managing customer calls. However, as the number of companies that adopt these new technologies grows, so does the risk of these systems failing.

If you think that this is nothing to be concerned about, consider the following scenario that happened to our business.

A Story of Missing Voice Mails

Recently, we received a call from one of our suppliers saying we had an outstanding invoice. The call came in after hours, so they left a voice mail with a call back number. I personally called them back the next day in order to pay the invoice.

Like many businesses, this supplier has a phone system with an auto attendant. During my call, I navigated the options and eventually was transferred to the billing department. The extension rang, but no one answered. So, I left a voice message. A week goes by and we do not hear back from this supplier. I call them again and leave another voice mail. Another week goes by and still no response. A few days later, we receive a system generated email from the supplier saying our invoice was now overdue.

I replied to the supplier’s email saying we had tried to reach them twice by phone and left a voice mail each time. Their response? They did not get our messages.

Clearly, something is wrong – either with their phone system or the person responsible for checking their messages.

Software-based Phone Systems Can Fail

The “I Left a Message – We Didn’t Get It” situation is frustrating for both the business and the customer. However, regardless as to the root of the problem, the burden is on the business to make sure your phone system is working properly – not your customers. The reality is that your phone system software can fail and there are many reasons why this can happen. Here are a few:

  • Your telecom or phone app provider’s software has a bug
  • The initial setup of the system was done incorrectly
  • Software updates are turned off or were installed incorrectly

While the chances that your customer’s calls “disappear into a black hole” are rare, you should take this potential seriously. What makes matters worse is that if something does go wrong with your phone system, you may not find out for a long time.

Think about it. Unless you call your main line yourself or someone else alerts you, how would you know if it’s working properly or not?

When you look at this from the customer’s perspective, things don’t get any better. What if your clients are calling (repeatedly) for support and no one answers or calls back? Or, what if they are a prospective customer wanting to do business with you and they get no answer and no one calls them back?

Obviously, this could turn into a big problem from a customer experience standpoint. And, in both cases, it’s possible you’ll lose these customers to the competition.

Takeaway: Test Your Phone System

The moral of the story is that businesses should test their phone system on a regular basis. This includes calling your main customer line (both during and after hours) – making sure it works and the greetings are correct. Don’t forget to test each path of your auto attendant call tree. Make sure that someone can see the incoming test calls and to leave a voice mail for each department’s mail box. Have this person retrieve those test messages to further ensure they are received.

Also, log into the back end of your phone system to make sure the auto attendant is configured properly. (You should contact your telecom account rep and / or app provider for guidance on testing.)

It’s easy to take your phone system for granted. But, it is a critical part of your overall customer experience and taking the time to test the system periodically will pay dividends in the long run.

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