That's a very natural thing to do. It's very personal and gives clients a strong sense of being served.
BUT . . . This behavior can also lead to too much interruption and habits that do not serve you well in the long run. In general, you should not have any processes that allow people to simply interrupt what you're doing and reset your productivity. Today we'll talk about some general rules for success with the phones. Next time we'll discuss "How Much Interruption is Okay?"
Phones and Phone Etiquette
It has been set out that this company will not be interrupt driven by phones of any type. It is considered rude to turn away from someone while in a conversation only to give all your attention to another. Many people today do this when their phone rings, but we will not.
It is also recognized that anyone working on a task is distracted from that task the second they change their focus to the phone. This can be an almost addictive, compulsive behavior.
Personal phone calls should be attended to during break times and if necessary in between service calls in such a manner that they do not interrupt the flow of work.
It is assumed you prioritize your personal and work life in some organized fashion so that higher priority items and addressed before lower priority items, and that there is a process for putting on your "to do" list.
- Technicians do not answer any phones at any time unless it is one of your co-workers or it is identifiable as being directly related to the Service Request or Activity you are working on at the time.
- Always set phones to lowest audible setting (or vibrate) when in any office including our own.
- Do not answer your desk or cell phone when you are in a meeting or giving someone else your attention.
- Try to check voice mail every other hour on the hour for best response time. A simple rule is every odd hour of the day. This allows for a check after lunch and as one of the last things in the day.
- No personal phone calls while on client sites ever!
- Desk Phones have programmed voice mail greetings and menus.
- Desk phone voice mail passwords are set to the norm defined in the company policy.
- All voice mail greetings must closely resemble the following statement and must contain the same information:
“Hello you have reached the voice mail for Joe Technician. Please leave me a detailed message and I will return your call as soon as possible. If this is of an urgent nature, please call the 916-928-0888 extension 1 for the Service Manager."
Phones are an interesting thing. Somehow, our society has come to believe that you should answer the phone as soon as it rings. I've been in sales meetings when a cell phone rings. Invariable, the prospect will say "Do you want to get that?" No. In fact, the person with the phone should have put it on silent or left it in the car.
When you are talking to someone on the phone, they deserve your full attention. When you're talking to someone in person (even a fellow employee), they deserve your full attention. But more than that: Your company is less productive and more stressful when it's filled with interruptions.
Here's a little snippet from some scientific research:
- "When people are constantly interrupted, they develop a mode of working faster (and writing less) to compensate for the time they know they will lose by being interrupted. Yet working faster with interruptions has its cost: people in the interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and effort. So interrupted work may be done faster, but at a price."
The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress by Gloria Mark, Department of Informatics, University of California, Irvine and Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Klocke, Institute of Psychology, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
With phones, our big fear is that we'll give a bad customer service response. But, really, we find that 99% of clients are perfectly happy if they get a reasonable response. In our modern world, voice mail and call-backs are common. If you have ways for clients to enter service tickets by phone, email, and web portal, then it's up to you to respond in a timely fashion. In general, if you get back within an hour, they're happy.
If a client has a true emergency, then you need to simply follow the processes we've outlined already. Interrupting your business does not automatically mean better service for the client.
Implementing this policy is pretty simple. You should write up a brief description of the procedure and put it into your SOP binder. Distribute it to your staff. Maybe hold a meeting to discuss this policy and commit to it.
This kind of policy requires that everyone on the team
1) Be aware of the policy
2) Practice the policy
3) Correct one another's errors
4) Support one another with reminders
Your Comments Welcome.
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About this Series
SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.
Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at http://www.smallbizthoughts.com/events/SOPFriday.html.
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Next week's topic: Phone Procedures 2 - How Much Interruption is Okay?
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