Hello? Anybody Home?

Every customer has a pet peeve. And right up there with the best of them is the “Nobody Home Syndrome.

Columns From: 5/12/2000 Modern Machine Shop,

Every customer has a pet peeve. And right up there with the best of them is the “Nobody Home Syndrome.” NHS is arguably the pet-peeve-from-hell. It works like this:

  1. Customer calls.
  2. Phone rings for five plus rings.
  3. Clerk answers.
  4. Customer put on hold.
  5. Elevator music begins.
  6. Customer begins cursing imaginary salesperson.
  7. Customer hangs up.
  8. Customer base eroded.

Of all the business annoyances and vexations, NHS is the most despised. Why? Because it “disses” the customers. It makes customers feel disrespected, disappointed and displeased. These customers want to inquire about and/or buy a product, yet can’t make the first contact. They want to do business, but they get the business run-around. Insensitive acts committed by abrasive people hurt the bottom line of your company. Customers simply walk away before they get to the front door.

Rudeness starts at the top of an organization and slowly winds its way down the chain of command until the entire organization is permeated with ill-mannered people. It is really important to remember that discourteous, inconsiderate, insolent, insensitive, insulting, condescending people ride herd over your feelings ONLY if you let them! You don’t get respect until you expect it. You never have to take rudeness from anyone, even your boss, and even if you feel your job is on the line. You must respect yourself before you expect respect.

These are the strategies for dealing with NHS:

  1. Don’t compete with ineptitude. Remain calm and firm. Keep your remarks simple. Tell the person how long you will stay on the line. After the stated time, hang up. Get the Yellow Pages, or go to the Web and shop elsewhere. You may find another vendor more willing to have your business, and, at the same time, establish another network of business associates and partners.
  2. Focus on you and your concerns. Always ask questions that require a thoughtful response. This will reassure you that the other person is listening. It’s also a good tact for getting that person to get you connected to where you want to be. Keep your comments short and succinct.
  3. Explain the problem. Show the person how it is in his or her best interest to communicate with you. You can best do this by having your thoughts and requests prepared and rehearsed in advance.

Mindless ineptitude keeps the customer waiting when the customer has a right to a speedy handling of inquiries. Keeping the customer on hold is not only rude but also a quick way to erode your customer base. Every direct contact with the customer is an opportunity to improve or destroy the relationship. And every expression of rudeness only diminishes the delicate relationship between supplier and purchaser.

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