Press 1, Press 2…Why Can’t I Just talk to a Person!

“Please listen closely as some of our menu items have currently changed.”  Great.  How many times have you made a call for customer service and what?

immediately think it is going to be an hour before I get to a person.  Right?

In doing some investigation, which I must say was quite entertaining, I called help desks at Universities across the country just to see what their help desk prompting was like.   It really got me thinking about what places are trying to do with their prompts.  Then it got me thinking how many customers really know why they are being prompted?  Customer Service wise, this is an interesting thought and I want to explain it from both sides and just maybe try to find middle ground between the customer, who really is the important one, and the Help Center who ultimately is trying to get faster more efficient service from the prompting.

One of the main reasons I was doing this “investigation of prank calling” was to see if I could trend what a majority of our Higher Education institutions are doing with their prompting.  Is there a common theme to the information they are getting.  I will tell you, most institutions want to know who you are first.  An example:  “If you are a student or alumnus,  press 1, if you are a faculty or staff member, press 2, for all other customers, press 3.”  This really makes sense.  I can tell you that in our Help Desk, if a student calls we almost always know what their questions are going to be about.  Students have very specific IT needs that are very different from faculty and staff.  Faculty and Staff have their own needs and they are different students.

When a call comes into the Help Desk queue these institutions, know immediately whether they are talking to a student or a faculty member and can prepare for the questions before even saying “Hello!”

What’s more is when taking the calls, we may have a Help Desk worker who is very familiar with Faculty members problems and would be able to help with the problem much quicker and make for a better customer experience than a different worker who doesn’t have that skill set.  Based on the choice made by the customer the Help Desk can route that call to the better skilled agent and make for a better experience.  Makes sense, right?

Other places I could tell built their prompting based on their most common calls.  “For outlook problems, press 1.  For password changes, press 2.  For all other computer problems press 3.”  I can tell you that at our University that is most of our calls as well.  If you know you are going to receive a percentage of outlook calls and password changes, I am sure their thought is lets eliminate those in the prompting so we can give our most experienced workers everything else.  Again, makes sense.

What I am trying to get at, is we in customer service know that hearing prompts and having to make choices to get to a person is not a positive customer service experience.   We know from our own experience as customers the annoyance that comes along with having to make these choices.  However, at the same time, once past the prompts, if we have it set up properly (again, why I am investigating prompting is to get it right) then once you do get to a person, it is hopefully the person that can help you, the customer, the most.

But, at the same time, listen close to the prompts, there is almost always a means to get straight to a person.  “To speak to an agent now, press #.”

Brett Williams, Help Desk Manager From Laramie, WY


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