“Please hold the line, your call is very important to us.” Words to make anyone who has ever been on the receiving end (and that’s all of us) sigh longingly; a bit like a deflating beach ball. It’s usually followed by a looped music track that slowly breaks your spirit for the next 20 to 40 minutes until you finally get through to a human being, by which time you’ve entirely forgotten why you called in the first place. It’s called, ‘The Runaround’.See our friend in the flow chart? This is Bob. He’s currently in the middle of this modern-age telephone limbo. Bob was doing nothing more than minding his own business, looking to make an enquiry with a company he had heard good things about. At first, Bob is unaware of entering ‘The Runaround’. He gets through to a receptionist who is polite and professional and he makes his enquiry. That’s when it happens.
First, Bob is told that no one is available to take his call, so he leaves a voicemail asking for a call back. Bob waits. Bob hears nothing. He could give up now, but he’d like to give this company the benefit of the doubt (apparently they are great at what they do), so Bob calls again.
The same friendly receptionist apologises for the oversight and then gives Bob the salesman’s mobile number so he can contact him directly. Bob hangs up and redials. This time he gets the salesman’s personal voicemail. He leaves another message and waits. Again.
Bob calls once more. Irritated, he explains to the receptionist what’s happened. She promptly transfers him to another team member who can help him in the absence of the salesman. The hold music starts and Bob can feel the life begin to drain out of him. The music cuts abruptly and the line rings; finally, light at the end of the tunnel. Someone picks up. It’s the answering machine. Bob sighs, now firmly in the grip of ‘The Runaround’. He leaves a final message, doesn’t care if they call back, and moves on to another company.
Fortunately, Bob is a work of fiction, but no doubt one that we can all empathise with. If customer service is something you value strongly, there is a way to avoid getting a frustrated caller on the line again.
With new cloud-based communication tools you could set-up a virtual receptionist and Bob’s call could be handled a lot smarter. You choose where to send Bob’s call right from the start, whether directly to an office based sales team or to a member of staff on the go, no matter where they might be. In the event that a team member is out of reach, calls and voicemails can be set up to divert to available colleagues, meaning Bob never has to get ‘The Runaround’ again.
Business relationships are all about great communications. When thinking about how to improve yours, put yourself in Bob’s shoes and think, how best can I avoid giving customers ‘The Runaround’?
Originally published Apr 20, 2016, updated Jan 08, 2021