It’s such a digital world that it is easy to forget old-school basic CX like, you know – answering the phone. A recent experience with with a local small business turned out to be a powerful example of how the fundamentals can gain or lose customers. Read on, and consider whether your CX map needs some business process reengineering to bring back the basics of answering the phone. Or, you can skip the story and jump down to the Bottom Line bit at the bottom to get the takeaways that can help you be a better entrepreneur.
I recently came to accept that my favourite hair stylist is not returning to London. She went back to Italy to visit family in July, and she still isn’t back. Summer is long gone, so it should have been clear ages ago that it’s time to find a new stylist, but hey, I’m an optimist. Every time I called the salon, they said no, she isn’t back yet. YET. That gave me hope that her return was imminent. I finally went ahead and booked a cut with their senior stylist, figuring this place must know how to spot talent, since they had had the good sense to hire the amazing woman who flew to Italy and hasn’t flown back. YET. My haircut with the senior stylist was a borderline horror story, but that isn’t what I want to share here. This is an example of the power of the basics of answering the phone.
After researching hair salons in my leafy area of North London, I came across a place I liked. It had lots of positive, recent reviews, and Google Maps told me it was a 13 minute walk from my flat. I used the online booking function and the appointment dropped into my calendar. A SMS confirmation popped up on my phone a couple of days before my appointment. Technology was working well.
Technology Fail, or Human Error?
Rather, I thought technology was working well. The morning of my appointment was a crisp sunny Saturday. Perfect for a short walk. I’m very grateful for the good weather, since my walk to the salon took 30 minutes longer than expected. Leaving my flat, I opened Maps on my phone and entered the name of the salon, which was promptly pinned with its name and the icon of a teeny pair of scissors, just to confirm what kind of business it was. I walked through back roads to the High Street until my location on the map matched where Google had pinned the salon. But it wasn’t a salon, it was a laundrette.
I slowly walked up and down for a few minutes, in case the business had moved a few doors down or I was missing the signage. Next, I double checked Google Maps, which had me firmly planted over the salon name and scissor icon. Then I opened the business website and saw the address was for High Street Way – I was on High Street Road. Gah. As I’m entering this new address into Maps, my phone rings. It’s the salon calling, and I explain I’m on Road and the website says Way, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.
Off I go again, following Maps along more back roads, away from the High Street, until I turn onto Way. It’s a residential street, but I carry on, hoping the end will have a row of shops with a salon on the corner. Like I said, I’m an optimist. At the end of the residential street was another residential street. I wondered if I was being punked, for 2 reasons. One, I was standing at the address listed on the business website. Two, I told the guy who called from the salon that I was on my way to this address.
Signs from the Universe
For a moment I wondered if this was a Sign From the Universe that my stylish young Italian stylist was in the process of returning to London, and that I should just abandon the idea of a haircut today. Should I give up and carry on with my day, or shall I plunge on?
Plunging on with renewed determination, I called the salon again, and told him my story. I went to Road, I went to Way, where are you? He explained where the salon was in relation to Landmark, and finally, I knew where they were. This landmark is a rather prominent and locally famous bit of architecture. I know it well, and finally, I could find them. I made my way there, arriving almost 30 minutes late, because of the 2 unnecessary legs of the journey.
Answering the Phone
Back to why answering the phone is important for business processes and strong customer experience. My failure to find the salon was not due to my map-reading skills (which is surprisingly good, considering how often I get lost). Human error is a thing which impacts businesses, but this wasn’t user error. Google had pinned their location to the wrong spot. I showed this on my phone when I arrived. He responded “that is a problem” which is an understatement. Sorting out settings and updating content in Google My Business is an excellent example of working ON your business. It may take time, be frustrating, and not fun, but neglecting it can cost you revenue.
In addition to being so willing to fix the Google Maps issue, this story is an example of the power of answering the phone. Sometimes, good customer experience is really that simple. For a retail or shopfront or service business, having a real human answer the phone is Page 1 of CX. Technology is wonderful, but it fails, it has limitations, and there is user error. If you have a phone number for your business, answer when people call it.
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Bottom Line: What does this mean for your business?
If you want to skip the story and get straight to the lessons of this customer service experience, read these 4 tips for direction on how to improve CX and marketing visibility for your business.
1. Update Google My Business
Keep your Google My Business listing updated. Clear your cache and test where Google is pinning your business on the map. If you don’t have Google My Business, read about how it will help your business.
2. Include detailed directions
If you need your customers to come to your place of business, include detailed directions on your Contact or Location page. An address alone may not be enough, especially if there are many streets with identical or similar names. Postcodes help, but not everyone will want to look that up. Make it easier for your customers by providing visual clues. “Across from the Main Street Post Office” is more clear than “123 Main Street.” If the salon website had one line explaining its location in relation to the famous landmark nearby, I would have found my way there without fail.
3. Answering the phone is basic CX
If your business is retail, storefront, or a service, and there is a phone number on the website and Google listing, your business process must include answering the phone. You or your staff must always be answering the phone. And have a system to collect messages. And check those messages, frequently. If that isn’t possible, outsource to a service which can handle this professionally. You can customise your answering service to fit your business needs and budget. In the UK, MoneyPenny is an outstanding choice, and in the USA there is Ruby. If I hadn’t connected with someone to get accurate information about their location, I would have missed my appointment, and the salon would have lost my business. I had gone to the address in Google Maps, and the address on their website, but still hadn’t found the hair salon. Answering the phone and helping me find them landed them a customer.
4. Never blame the customer
Stay positive with customers, even when they do annoying things like rolling up late to an appointment. Especially a new customer, because this first customer service experience sets the tone for the relationship. Instead of being grumpy and abrupt, they were kind and welcoming. I showed them the pin on Google Maps, which placed them a few streets away from their actual location. His face fell and he said “that is a problem.” To their credit, when I paid for my (very good) haircut, I was given an update: “our IT is fixing it.” And they did – their Google Maps now pins their salon in the correct location.