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January 15, 2013

Where’s the #$@&^!* phone number?

guy-screaming-on-phoneIn preparing to send my son to London for his semester abroad last week, we had a few questions to ask Delta Airlines about luggage restrictions on international flights.  Now, I’m sure that I could have found the answer to our questions in some FAQ section on their website… but I actually prefer talking to someone.

So, we went to the Delta website to find a phone number to call.  And we couldn’t.  We looked high and low, but with no luck… and what numbers they did show had nothing to do with us.  I then went to the old-school yellow pages and called the local Delta number… but it was disconnected.  At this point, I was screaming at the phone.  My son finally found a number buried several clicks deep in their website but we had to leave a message.  Thankfully, Delta called back about 20 minutes later.

Why wasn’t their phone number displayed prominently on every page?  They will probably argue that the more their website can handle, the less people they’ll have to hire and the more they can hold down costs.  I think they’ve got it backwards…  I submit that one of the reasons that Delta Airlines is having such financial problems is that without those customer service people in place, they’re an incredibly frustrating company to do business with (as compared to a competitor like Southwest Airlines – who makes it really easy) forcing potential customers go elsewhere or, at least, harbor ill will toward them (like me!).

Now, I know that everyone reading this post makes their phone number easy to find on their website – that’s not the point.  But are you doing anything else that makes it frustrating for your clients and prospective clients?  For example:

  • Are your project personnel responsive?  What about after hours?  Do they give out their cell phone numbers to clients in case of an emergency?  Have you assigned dedicated back-ups when they’re away from the office?
  • How about invoicing?  On time?  Easy to understand?  Accurate?
  • How’s your communication with clients during a long project?  How are you keeping them updated?  Do you have regularly scheduled status meetings or email status reports?
  • Do you have inexperienced project personnel… the kind that clients don’t want to work with?  What are you doing to hire better and train more effectively?  What about on-going training?
  • Take a look at your website… is information easy to find?  Is it easy to get in touch with you?  Is useful content available and updated, bringing prospects back to the site regularly?  Is your blog tied to the site?

Take a step back and look at all the ways in which you can and do interact with a client or prospective client.  Are you delighting them… or frustrating them?  Even if you irritate them just a little… a little problem – over time – can become a big issue.

Not sure what to do?  Just ask your clients.  They will tell you exactly what you need to do.  Listen to your clients, eliminate the frustration and you’ll give yourself a very strong competitive advantage.

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