I hate phone trees.
There really is no better way to communicate how I feel on this topic. I hate calling customer service. When I make a call and a machine answers the phone I just sigh. I punch “0” hoping for the operator anyone else. I hope to reach someone who can actually solve my problem. Eventually, I’ll follow the rules and hope for the best. Usually, the best isn’t very good.
Many smart people work on creating these trees. Vendors make a great deal of money designing these trees. Phone trees, they claim, allow a user to answer a few questions and appropriately route their own calls. Operators and receptionists are no longer necessary. Efficiencies improve. According to surveys customer satisfaction remains steady and companies can cut costs.
It’s very hard to argue against phone trees.
I work in IT and there are times when I’m the one on the other end of that phone tree. I have taken calls from UF staff that need help. They may have been routed to me appropriately or not, they don’t care. They just want someone to fix their problem or provide them service. If I can’t help them, the last thing they want is to be thrown back to the tree.
Usually, I never send them back to dispatch. I know enough people in IT here at UF that I can usually find someone to fix their problems. I listen to their story from beginning to end and make the next step without them. I find someone who can help them, then forward them along.
But, before I send them on their way, I always make sure they have my direct number. If I send you to someone who doesn’t solve their problem, they can call me back directly. Every single time I am thanked profusely. I’ve had a number call me back just to thank me for not letting them loose back into the system.
No one wants to be cut loose.
At UF, we’re currently working on developing a webpage for users to submit problem reports and service requests. There are a number of powerful tools that are available for creating these front ends and we have one at our disposal.
A well-crafted front end to a help desk can be used to route users to the appropriate support staff. Self-diagnosis of a problem can help a user cut through levels of red tape and cut directly to the support staff best suited to solve their problems. Utilization of the web form can be used to gather statistics concerning the incidence of problems in our environment.
A well crafted front page can be a valuable tool for routing users and gathering information.
A well crafted phone tree can be a valuable tool for routing users and gathering information.
But phone trees, in fact all user-managed entry portals, work based on the same fundamental premise. Every phone tree communicates the same message to the user.
My time is more valuable than yours.