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Answering machines and reachability

22.07.2018
Ulrich Spranger
Ulrich Spranger
When I founded my company with 16 or 17, I still had recorded announcements, or rather: an answering machine (for the millennials: back then, this was basically like a mailbox). Because I was alone in the office, you know, if at all (as I had to go to school occasionally). So, when I couldn't find anyone who had a free period to substitute for me or I was on the bus to a customer visit and my stupid C network mobile phone didn't have a signal in the middle of the Taunus, again – despite the fact that it cost more than taking the bus –, well, then a recorded announcement had to be enough. I didn't want to miss any customer. At least the text was individual and different every day, so that callers would feel they were being taken seriously and would at least leave a message.
By the way: When I was reachable, I always found it embarrassing that everyone could hear that I was alone in my office. Therefore, I always turned on a cassette (for the millennials: that was the MP3 of the 90s) with typewriter sounds, telex beeps and phone ringing. This way, it sounded like a professional company :)
Today on the other hand, I hate recorded announcements. Why can a company not make sure that someone picks up the phone when I want something from the company?
Can't I expect a company to deploy personnel during the hours when customers call?
Maybe this annoys me that much because Jarltech is almost paranoid about this: If we think that customers wish to talk to us at specific hours, then we're there. A local holiday in Hesse? October third in Germany? People in Spain or in England don't care about this.
We schedule trainings either from 7 to 9 o'clock, from 17 to 19 o'clock, on Saturdays or divided by groups. There should always be somebody to pick up the phone in the right department and speaking the right language.
Also please don't be fooled as a company director: "No one calls on a Friday afternoon, anyway. Nobody is on duty." Indeed, but no one is calling because people have accustomed to your company already being asleep. They know that they have to make their purchases at the competition on Fridays. Our turnover is the same on Fridays as on any other day. Switching on the answering machine at 13 o'clock is just insulting when customers still need us. And even if there are fewer calls, there are still people who want to talk to us. I always wonder about companies with a multi-million marketing budget, and then no one is there to answer the phone.
Even at lunchtime, no department at Jarltech goes on a break all together. That simply isn't customer-friendly. Besides, it's not bad for a change to see people who are not sitting opposite to oneself all day.
Of course it's nice to be at the open air bath on a Friday afternoon or to work from six to 13 o'clock and have the afternoons off. That's great, if you want to build your reputation on never being reachable. But if the customer is paying my salary, after all, he could be considering my behaviour to be arrogant and just make his purchase where they conform to his needs.
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