Mike Lynskey

Author Bio ▼

Mike has been in the security industry for well over 36 years. He started with the family business as a locksmith and alarm engineer and fitted more than 1,000 systems before moving on to own and run his own company. He later sold out to a NACOSS company and became a self-employed inspector for the SSAIB. Alongside inspecting, he taught alarm installation and locksmithing for T K Consultants of Bolton. For the last nine years of his official working life, Mike was employed by the NSI, working with the marketing team. His main contribution to the NSI regime was to visit most of the new applicants and help them get up to NSI requirement. Since reaching retirement at 65 he does a little consultancy and has written an installers handbook. As Mike says, "The industry has given me a good living for a lot of years
October 8, 2013

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Installers Have to Answer the Call

Is your interactive voice response system losing your security and fire installation company business?

Perhaps I am old fashioned, but I always considered the telephone to be the first link in the business chain, because this is where the first enquiry or request for a survey comes in. In my book, it just has to be answered properly, or you lose the business — and don’t forget that customers come in chains, with one recommending your business to another.

My old family business used to keep track of these customer recommendations, and we found strings of up to 25 customers long. That was all free advertising, and all because we got that first customer contact right.

Your call is important to us

Today it seems we have thrown over these tried and tested ways of coaxing a customer on to our books and settled for the efficiency of a disembodied voice that says, “Your phone call is valuable to us. You now have four options. Press one for sales,” and the whole horrible saga goes on. If your phone call were important, someone from the company would talk to you, but basically it is saying, “Sit down, shut up, and wait until I’ve finished my cup of tea.”

Don’t forget that you always have an option that’s never mentioned. You can hang up and take your business to a company that can find the time to talk to you.

Let’s start at the bottom. The minimum requirement for an NSI- or SSAIB-approved company is that the phone must be answered. A phone that rings without answer is just not acceptable. You must at least have an answering machine that will take a message. The answering machine was the original Metal Mickey that drove your customers elsewhere. (The inspectorates are well aware of this but accept that a one-man business has little choice.) Better still, have a real person at the end of the phone. Then at least your customers will feel they are getting somewhere, but is that enough? It has to be the right person. Is that person interested, knowledgeable, and friendly? If not, why do you employ that person?

I know of only one company that has gotten its automated system right, and that is Virgin Media. The voice always seems happy and helpful — then the company goes and spoils it by outsourcing to an offshore contact centre. On the other hand, during my inspecting days, I came across a one-man installer that had an IVR system, and all four options went straight to his mobile phone. This kind of deception on the phone makes the customer wonder where else he is being economical with the truth — and who’s conning who.

Premium numbers

Today we have a new twist: premium 0844 numbers. Along with 0870 and 0845, these are numbers that can divert you to anywhere in the world. Now you can answer a local call sprawled on a recliner sunbed in Spain whilst suntanned senoritas holding chilled drinks fan you with palm fronds. Then you can issue instructions to your trusted lieutenant back in the old country, whom you think is looking after your business but who is in fact busy stealing your customer base and setting up in opposition. And there you are thinking you have it made.

How do I know? I have had to sit and listen to this tale of woe every time one of these whiz kids has had to come back, pick up the pieces, and start all over again. Life is tough when you are the product of your own disaster.

With the 0844 number comes an opportunity to cash in on gullible customers by screwing them for cash whilst they are asking for your help. Basically, the number has a connection charge (ker-ching — 50p in the pot before a customer has opened his mouth), and then it has a high call rate. The phone provider takes some of the cash. The rest goes to the holder of the number, so the customer is actually paying for the privilege of speaking to your company.

What a great way to make easy money, rip off your customer, and lose business.

The NHS has been known to do this, but I have to deal with the NHS because it is a one-horse race. If I had the money, I would go private just on the principle. By the same token, I will avoid at all costs dealing with any company that uses an 0844 number.

Are you going to be a brave company by disclosing your address, having a local 01 number, and answering the phone with a smile in your voice? Or are you going to hide behind the computer voice and thumb your nose at your customers? The choice is yours.

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22 Comments on "Installers Have to Answer the Call"

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Irvin
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Providing a real round the clock human answering service gave our sales team a real edge, especially when they were able to advise potential customers that before making a final decision who to place their business with, they should contact the company late in the evening to ensure they really do offer a round the clock service and how fast the response would be.

vedard_alarms
Guest

I know it. But unfortunately I am bad at English listening and always asked them to send e-mail to me.  I will improve my English after reading this! Thanks for sharing this. 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

It’s the breadth of accents in English-speaking terriotories, must make it a nightmare!

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Hah, sounds like your customers were trying to catch you out, but excellent that you were there to allay their fears!

EFRA
Guest

Rob, what about answering the email?

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Hi EFRA, apologies, your article is in my desktray, don’t worry. Just needs the right timing you see. Sorry if I haven’t responded directly. I get something like 120 emails a day, around which I try to fit my actual job!

holmesd
Guest

It’s a difficult balance between operating costs and having a real person to answer calls and I think as outsourced call centres and automated systems have become accepted, it will be harder to justify the head count. Though seeing that there are several tv adverts that declare “uk call centres only” and that you get answered by a person, does show that thes are unique selling points for that provider.

ITs_Hazel
Guest

With so many companies outsourcing their support departments, it’s understandable why some providers would use that as one of their benefits or selling points. Fact of the matter is, the quality of support you receive at times is different. Accountability is also disputed, since it would be difficult to get a hold directly of the provider if their call center is, say, in Asia.

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Well, not necessarily, aren’t the overseas contact centres arranged to operate on the time zone of which ever market it is they’re serving?

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Seems to be a badge of honour amongst organisations to brand themselves ‘UK call centres only’. But what’s to say a UK call centre will be any better at reading a script than a non-UK call centre?

holmesd
Guest

Ha- Rob’s got a good point here, a call centre person reading off a script , it’s neither here nor there where they are. It’s the efficiency of having the right person (sales/support etc) call you back or getting put through to them that makes the difference.

batye
Guest

good point, could not agree more same problem… reading from the script -all over North America… in my books you must have a right person… 

rockoff
Guest

Thanks for sharing this perspective.

JonathanL
Guest

Ha ha, this actually reminded me of my grandfather he would call places as part of his trucking business and if he got a machine on the other end he would hang up and complain a little bit then call someone else.  Nothing is quite as entertaining as hearing for the 18th time that I am the fourth caller in que and that my business is appreciated…

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Your comment is important to us, Jonathon, and we’ll be sure to reply to it in due course. 😉

Philclark
Guest

Rob,
you missed our targeted email response time. your salary’s docked.
Phil

Philclark
Guest

Rob,
you missed our targeted email response time. your salary’s docked.
Phil

Tracy - Hertfordshire
Guest
Tracy - Hertfordshire
My partner and I have a family owned fire alarm company and for 14 years have run it on the basis of the customer is always important, and agree this is the best way to deal with your customers. We have a 24hr call out service direct to our mobile, customers are given that number for out of hours, and i am in the office all day to actually speak with a customer should they so wish. For 14 years we have not had to advertise our business, purely because every single one of our customers is from a reccomendation.There are… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

You’re bang on that this is the same across industries. One thing I would wonder is if a smaller company can guarantee compliance with things such as data protection act in regards to phone data. I suppose the point is that you’re talking about much smaller data pools, so it’s less important.
On the customer referral point, that’s clearly massively important. I wonder, do you ask your customers how they were referred to you, or do they just volunteer that information? Do you then capture that?

Tracy - Hertfordshire
Guest
Tracy - Hertfordshire
With regards to smaller companies guaranteeing compliance with phone data, how would this be a problem when we have no switchboard, and they have our direct number landline or personal mobiles. Small companies would have no reason to divulge their customer details or use them unlawfully, as being small they are very important to us. We would always ask a customer who referred them to us, and for good will many times offer the original customer who referred them a discount on their next business as a thank you. Most of the new customers offer the information of who referred… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

That’s a great story of steafy growth and progression, where doing a great job leads to great long term rewards. Well done!

Electrosatcctv
Guest

Thank you Mike Lynskey for this great article.You are not being old fashioned,but doing things the proper way.Nothing makes a prospeting client unhappy as being kept on the phone for along time especially without a human voice.Most customers just hang up and and take their business else where were their calls would be attended to.We should remove all obstacles that debar the customer from doing business with us.Answering the phone call is one way of doing this.This is essential whether we are one man or corporate installer.

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