05 Aug 2020 By: Jessica Wise
Recently, I witnessed the perfect storm at the vet.
Two staff members were working frantically behind the counter to man the phones and check-out waiting patients.
At least 5 pet owners were waiting to pay while also attempting to social distance as their pets whined, meowed, barked and yanked on leashes.
As one man stepped forward, the phone continued to ring off the hook. Visibly frustrated, the woman who was about to check him out excused herself to answer the screaming phone.
Three little green lights continued to pulse on the call board as she piped off her greeting to the customer on the other end of the line.
“No sir, I don’t have any appointments today or even this week. We are booked solid for the next two weeks.”
She paused to listen.
“Yes, sir. I understand. If you don’t want to wait that long for an appointment, the best I can offer is for you to go to our urgent care center. It’s only about 20 minutes away.”
She provided the caller with the number for urgent care and hung up. The phone immediately rang back to life.
I think each customer, including myself, let out a barely audible grown. It looked like we were going to be waiting a while.
It was no wonder the call lines were jammed. With new COVID restrictions and limited appointment slots, pet owners had tons of questions and concerns. And, it wasn’t their fault that they had these questions.
It was the vet’s fault. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m not singling them out. Many businesses are guilty of the same transgressions that lead to cluster f*cks such as this.
So, I’ve decided to gift the business world with a few solutions that will prevent future headaches (i.e. clogged phone lines, excessive wait times, confused and frustrated customers, burnt out staff)
C’mon…I’ll enlighten you as to why your customers ask so many questions. Spoiler alert: It’s your fault.
Inquiring Minds Want to Know Because You Didn’t Tell Them…Duh
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
— Bill Gates
Your customers won’t know what you don’t tell them. They also won’t have access to what you don’t give them.
It might seem like I’m stating the obvious here, but lack of information is the root cause of over half of customer inquiries.Over half of consumers say that the main reason they cannot resolve an issue on their own is because there is too little information online. @Nextiva Click To Tweet
Yet, 70% of customers would prefer to go online to get answers to their questions rather than use the phone or email (Social Media Today)
Considering recent events, now, more than ever, is the time to act as a virtual resource for your customers via your website, social channels, and self-service options. You won’t regret it.
For starters, your customers will love you for it.
55% of consumers fall in love with a brand when that brand offers “easy access to information and support.” (herothemes.com)
More importantly, studies show that readily providing pertinent information will reduce bottlenecking on your business’s phone and email channels.
Simply improving your “Help” section can reduce the number of customer inquiries by 5% (Harvard Business Review)
That means fewer headaches for your customers and your staff.
Share The Wealth…of Knowledge
One of the main catalysts for vet office’s constant downpour of phone calls is that the business does not share enough information with its customers online.
I can’t believe I’m typing these words, but this vet doesn’t even have a website! This is the first place people go to find out more about a business! The horror.
But, even if your business has a website, that doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job of keeping customers in the loop.
A whopping 57% of calls come from customers who already visited the company’s website first (Harvard Business Review)
So, besides posting the obvious (i.e. business hours, products, services, company history, etc.), you need to use that beautiful chunk of online real estate to post updates and alert customers to changes in business operations. The same announcements should also be made across all of your social media channels.
Most importantly, your website NEEDS to have a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page!
Then, customers can quickly and easily find many of the answers they need without having to reach out to you directly. Trust me. An FAQ will make your inquiry volume drop like a pre-teen at a Justin Bieber concert.
Don’t worry. I already know what you’re thinking next.
But, how will you know what questions to publish answers to? Continue reading, my friend…
Play the “What If” Game to Reveal Why Your Customers Ask So Many Questions
Have you ever played the “What if” game?
The game is often used as an icebreaker exercise or a conversation starter at parties. When it’s a player’s turn, he or she is expected to present the group with a thought provoking question.
What if everyone on earth lost their hearing? What if researchers discovered that dinosaurs still existed?
These are extreme examples, but you get the idea. My suggestion is that you play your own version of the “What if” game to predict what types of questions your customers will need answers to.
Head them off at the pass so to speak.
Humor me and think back to the phone call the vet received in the opening paragraph.
What if the vet had a dynamic statement on its hypothetical website that changed to reflect the current appointment booking status? “We have no available appointments until [insert date here]. If you have an emergency prior to this date, please call our urgent care center at (555) 555-5555.”
I think we can all safely assume this tactic would have prevented at least one call from clogging up those busy phone lines.
What if the vet went “what if” wild, and posed a ton of other questions to build a solid FAQ page for its website ?
I have a hunch. With a solid website and FAQ page like this one, a hush would fall upon the phone lines.
The check-out lines would slow to a trickle. And, the vet’s employees would probably have enough time to catch their breath, and maybe even take a bite or two of the lunch they ordered from the local pizza joint.
“No, I Wanna Do It Myself!”
Just like a toddler finding his or her independence, your customers want to do it themselves!!
Believe it or not. Most of your customers don’t even want to talk to you on the phone. 53% of consumers think it is important for them to resolve their own product and service problems rather than rely on customer service representatives. (herothemes.com)
So, whether you implement a knowledge base, scheduling software, a 24/7 live chat window or all three, self-service options are where it’s at.
It’s 2020 and this is what the people want! Truly, over 60% of US consumers prefer an automated self-service, such as a website or mobile app, for simple customer service tasks. (Nextiva)
Yet again, I turn to the vet to make some crucial points. Consider the following “what if” scenarios.
What if someone who got a brand new puppy is wondering what it can be given for an upset stomach? A knowledge base system, like this one from LiveHelpNow, would allow customers to type their questions into a search engine. The knowledge base would then present related articles that might be helpful.
What if pet owners could go on the vet’s website to schedule and cancel appointments on their own? Apps, like Calendly, will list available time slots in real-time. No more calling to make or break appointments!
What if it didn’t matter if the phone lines were busy? What if there was no need for customers to wait on hold anymore? By God, what if customers could get their questions answered 24/7/365 without even opening their mouths and without a staff member having to answer the phone? With a 24/7 live chat service, like HelpSquad, professionally trained live chat agents learn your business and answer your customers questions from anywhere at any time. Right from your website.
Imagine all three of these self-service forces coming together to save the customer service day.
I bet that the vet office’s phone would be so quiet a newborn baby could use it as a pillow.
Only You can Prevent Customer Service Fires
Serving the public doesn’t have to be like putting out a 4-alarm fire (even if we are in the midst of a national crisis).
The reason your customers ask so many questions is because you force them to.
So, make things easy on yourself and your customers. In terms of business communications, be the person at the party that overshares with the group.
Your customers are genuinely interested in what you have to say, and your staff would like to retire with some hair left.