Thursday, September 29, 2005

Customer Service

I get so annoyed by the awful state of customer service in today's world of business. You call so many places where the phone is answered by a computer: "Your call is important to us ... Press "1" for blah blah blah ...."

If my call is so important to you, why don't you have a human answer the phone? This irritated me before I opened my practice. I decided it would not be that way with my firm.

Today I called a company that was supposed to send me medical records. They faxed me a mostly incomprehensible document, but in the middle of one page was a short typewritten note, inquiring if I wanted films or film reports.

The sender's name was Tina, and there was a phone number under her name. I called. "Press 4 for a directory of names". I pressed 4. "For Diane, press 701. For Marcie, Press 702. For Linda press 703. For Sandra press 704."

No Tina. I pressed Zero. "That option is invalid."

What kind of business tells a customer that what the customer wants is invalid? If I was speaking to a human, they would never say that. Don't get me wrong, I love computers. But there is one task in this world that they're no good at -- answering the phone. I made a few more efforts to escape the voice jail system, but was unable to get to a person at all.

When you call the Redlich Law Firm, a person answers our phone. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, weekends, holidays, etc. How'd I do that? I hired an answering service. With current call volume this costs me about $300/month. A decent legal secretary would cost about $4000/month, for 9-5 work with a lunch break, not including weekends.

The answering service forwards calls to me from 7 am to 9 pm every day, including weekends, holidays, vacations, etc. If I'm available I pick up the phone. If not they send a text message to my cell and I get back to the caller quickly.

My clients actually seem to appreciate it.

I suppose there's a downside. I have my cell phone with me all the time. My neighbors were teasing me about it yesterday because I actually left it at home for a half-hour. I get calls at all hours, wherever I am. Personally, this does not bother me, and my wife doesn't complain either. The simple fact is that a typical call is a speeding ticket and means $250 in revenue, and once in a while it's a personal injury case worth thousands.

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