I have previous years of experience in the field of telephone based customer service and collections, and as an assistant manager in charge of running the company auto-dialer. Back at the time I was doing this, we were always teaching and reminding our phone people on the proper way to answer calls on the auto dialer. I have written on this topic in the past in greater detail, but wanted to touch on it here before also discussing another aspect of cold calling customers.
Now, to be sure we’re on the same page with the terminology, when I speak of an auto-dialer, it is that computer system which makes the phone calls for a company. It calls, and when someone picks up, it is supposed to be able to detect if it is a live voice, answering machine, or wrong number signal that answers. If it is an answering machine, the dialer will just disconnect and the number is recycled to be called a bit later, and if it is a wrong number signal, it is to record that on a report and drop the number from the calling queue. However, if it detects a real voice, it immediately pushes the call through to a representative who is sitting and waiting for it at their computer terminal.
If no representative is available, it plays a message to you when you answer. You may have heard one of these before, where you get a call that says “please hold on for an important message….”and then once an agent is free, they come on the line. Normally though, the representative is free from the start, and they are there when you answer. Now, you answer, the computer detects you are a real person, and within a split second your call and account information pops up on the screen of an awaiting phone representative.
They are “supposed” to be trained to handle this, and their response is supposed to be a brief script that gives them the one or two seconds they need to read your name. For them, they sit there, and then *beep* goes their phone and the computer screen fills with information. They should be ready to immediately say “Hello, this is Bob, may I please speak to…” and by the time they get done saying that they should have scanned their screen and identified the person they are calling, and add the name to it. I can tell when I am being called by such a machine usually you hear that brief silence when you answer, then the sound of an open line all of a sudden, along with a slight delay in response, and many times the person on the other end does their job properly and takes right off. However, I still, more and more, hear people go against their training and make the same mistakes.
Mistake #1: The most common mistake is for them to say “Hello?” – as if to question whether someone is on the line. I have to say, this usually irritates me greatly due to my past experience, and I often fire back with a comment about their mistake.
Mistake #2: Acting as if you know who answered the phone. I can’t tell you how many times I have answered, and the person on the other end has said “Hi Veronica” (my wife’s name) as if to assume she answered the phone. I won’t tell you how I usually respond to that. The rule of thumb is, you ask for the person whose name appears on the screen, you do not assume it is them. “Hello, this is Bob from XYX, may I please speak to Veronica?” – that is the proper script.
Here is my biggest issue though, and this has less to do with the auto-dialers, and more to do with the company’s business practice. This is how I judge a company from the start.
My mother passed away in 2002 and I live in her house and have her same phone number. Now - ten years later - can you believe I still occasionally get calls asking for my mother, from companies who want to refinance her house loan or sell her something? My response to such calls – especially when I point out their mistake and they turn around and try to sell me their plan? “Thank you for calling, but I feel truly sorry for you if you work for a company that buys and uses cold calling lists that are close to ten years old, causing you to call dead people. Such a company is not one that I would ever want to do business with, good bye.”
If you manage or work for a company that has such business practices, it is something that really needs questioned. Make sure they are using fairly recent lists to use for cold calling, otherwise it can be quite embarrassing.
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