Simply saying that you provide a 24-hour service to your customers is a simple statement to make but before this can become a benefit to your organisation three further commitments are needed – and these apply regardless of the time and effort you’ve put into perfecting your operations.
1. Be more organised than your customers.
Your out-of-hours callers won’t be prepared for the issue they’re facing – which makes it twice as important for them to know that you are. This means you have to know, in detail and in advance:
• What they are likely to ask for.
• What you’re prepared to do for them.
• What information you’ll need to do it.
Outside of working hours, your callers need to be confident that they can let go of their problem. They can’t do that until they’re confident that you’ve picked up the burden – which means more than just picking up the phone. To many businesses an inflexible pile of procedure can seem completely counter-productive. At four in the morning, the exact opposite is true, because as well as helping you to ‘deliver the goods’, a rigid structure goes a long way to reassuring your customer.
2. Get senior management to deal with the unexpected.
No matter how organised you are, there will always be exceptions, and with no decision-maker available, these can rapidly get you into trouble. Senior managers should not have to work nights – but having a last-resort contact to deal with the unexpected will keep you ahead of that round-the-clock promise. And if the unexpected disturbs one of your managers in the middle of the night, you can be assured that they’ll improve your procedures before it happens again.
3. Requests take time, but acknowledgement is immediate.
No emergency call is resolved until your caller is confident that you’ve taken ownership. As soon as they’ve explained the problem, callers will expect to know the following:
• What you can do for them.
• Who’s going to do it.
• When they can expect a response.
• What they can expect if they call for an update.
• If it’s going to cost them, and how much.
If you can take the time to be ready for all of this before that phone starts ringing, then your customers’ critical emergencies become your ‘business as usual’ – and their trust in your service becomes dependence.
By Mike Warren
Office Response Customer Services