“Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”

So go the iconic words of Ernestine the Phone Operator. If you are too young to remember Ernestine, she was the creation of actress and comedian Lily Tomlin.  Along with a cast of other zany characters, she was featured on Laugh In.

As irreverent as she could be with phrases like, “How may I, in all humble servitude, be of assistance?” she was a live voice on the other end of the line. How often does that happen now? Well if you take the experiences we’ve had in our office this past week, NOT very often.

My colleague, who incidentally is our company’s first line of communication, was doing follow-ups to customers who requested additional information on our products. With each call, I could sense her mounting frustration. Why? Each call was answered with an automated system or not at all.

Seriously? Even with email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and any other forms of communication we now have access to; the telephone is still the front line of our business communications. A phone answered by a “real” person creates a link with the person on the other end of the line – an important link. Many times it’s the first impression of your company a customer experiences. It better be good.

Do you really want your first point of contact with a customer to be an automated phone attendant? How frustrated do you get when you get a system where you need to go through a dozen steps to get to your destination? A recent statistic cited that about eighty percent of first-time callers hang up when they reach an automated answering machine. Eighty percent!

Some may argue that an automated system is less expensive, that their company is too small or too big to have a person dedicated to the phones or that the automated system just works best for them. I respectfully disagree.

It’s really something to think about. Call Sentry and you will get a “live” person answering your call. A person that engages customers in conversation, laughs with them, finds solutions to their challenges and creates a relationship with them.

At Sentry, we’re lucky to have Cheryl as our first contact and she’s the best. Just ask our customers. What happens when you don’t have a Cheryl to put on the front line? Well, that’s a topic for a whole other blog.

Oops. Sorry, I have to go. Cheryl is at lunch and the phone is ringing. My turn on the front line.

Posted by MJ Thomas

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