Not Evangelism

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

User experience and call centres

Although this blog is mostly concerned with the user experience of websites, that is of course only a part of the whole package. Your business will have any number of touchpoints with your customers, and it's important to give them all attention, as great user experience is a sum of the parts.

The user experience of telephone communications

The other day, I rang Laithwaites (a wine company based in the UK) as I'd had a wine from them that was corked. Unsurprisingly, the phone rang a few times and was picked up by their automated system. To my surprise, however, the recorded voice was vaguely familiar.

[Note: I've paraphrased from memory; you'll get the gist if not the exact words]
"Hi there, this is Tony Laithwaite, in France and on this recording. Er, I'm afraid everyone is busy at the moment, but if you hang on, someone will take your call."
Tony Laithwaite? The founder of the company? On the recorded message? Blimey. I was impressed. I hung on.

The phone rang a few more times before the automated system picked up again.
"Hi, it's Tony again. We're still a bit busy, but - er - it's coming up to Christmas, and hopefully you can find something in the new catalogue that - er - you like. We'll get to you soon. Thanks."
Again the phone rang - and this time it was answered by a human that politely and quickly dealt with my issue and exceeded my expectations.

Full marks to Laithwaites.

What Laithwaites got right

The recorded message is very clever, very appealing. Firstly, it's human. Tony Laithwaite gave his name to his company and is part of the brand; he regularly appears on marketing. He's recognisable. Having him answer the phone is a stroke of genius.

Secondly, the words he speaks seem genuine, unaffected.  The delivery is not polished; there are pauses and um and ers in the message, just like he'd recorded himself. It immediately creates the sense of a human connection, of a relationship between two people, rather than the impersonal recordings on phone systems.

This style of contact sets the tone for the conversation that's about to happen; it's relaxing, it engenders trust. Yes, I think there's a danger here of trying too hard, of trying to be too authentic, and somehow overdoing it, but Laithwaites have got the balance just right, and it really works.

What does your telephone system say about your business? Are you missing the chance to impress your customer whilst they wait to talk to your team?

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