Falling Off the Phone Tree

I’ve become pretty familiar with phone trees since I started providing phone captioning services for people with hearing disabilities about a year ago.

I’m sorry to report that a lot of our fellow citizens who use this service (provided free from the Federal government through phone service taxes) are falling off the phone tree many businesses use to reduce the number of live customer service agents—once a thriving industry in Arizona that’s being replaced by automation.

Phone trees are often programmed to force people to go online for their customer service needs, a problem for the many elderly captioning customers who can’t, or won’t go online for a myriad of reasons. For many, a phone is their main connection to the outside world.

I’m seeing two trends, neither of which are good for elderly Internet abstainers:

  • Long hold times interrupted with messages to visit a website
  • Complicated phone instructions requiring several inputs

Both include automated messages of varying speeds and at different volumes. This is definitely not senior-friendly.

The Phone Tree System: Internet or Else!

I’ve been amazed at the patience of people who remain on hold for a half hour or more in order to settle a problem with credit cards or bank accounts. In many cases they have no choice because they have trouble navigating business Internet sites or they don’t use the Internet at all.

Yes, such people exist and they still deserve to be served. Pushing everyone to use web-based solutions is not just short-sighted, it’s downright rude to those who may not be able to access the Internet or simply don’t understand it. Or who, like one of my clients, refuses to “learn computers” but still runs a thriving business as offline as possible. (I handle her Yelp and Google Business accounts–we both agreed they were too important to allow someone to infringe upon.)

Some phone trees are real hornets’ nests.

As I’ve said before, the first problem is that people speak much faster than they used to, and older people take longer to process information. Add in the inevitable two-second or so delay for people who read captions generated on their phones.

Customer-facing businesses need to understand that there are times when live, fluent customer service agents are necessary, even for the non-elderly or not-yet elderly. I know there are times when I opt for a live agent simply because the company’s online customer service process is so onerous it’s easier to put the phone on speaker and do something else while I’m on hold. I’m fairly savvy about the Internet so if I find a website to be burdensome, I can only imagine what it’s like for someone who retired around the time the Internet really took off.

Sometimes an older person will ask for something to be repeated, only to be put on hold, where they get helpful advice to “resolve the problem faster” by going online to visit:

“www.VERYLONGBUSINESSNAME.com/customercare and click on the Help Me tab at the top right-hand side of the page.”

A person who doesn’t want to go online, or can’t, may get an estimated wait time as long as 40 minutes. Seriously.

I’m glad to report that most people who do wait for a live agent are gracious to customer service, who are usually (but not always) polite as well, even if they have to be told to speak more slowly.

Some Phone Trees Force Callers to Distant Branches

Just as bad are phone trees that force extensive interaction with the phone. And again, much of the problem is with instructions spoken too fast plus extremely limited time for callers to respond.

I’ve been surprised myself when I’m about to respond to a phone prompt only to hear “invalid response” because I haven’t entered the information yet. I’m still pretty spry but sometimes I have to take off my glasses to read offscreen. This nanosecond of activity seems to take too long for some phone automation systems.

Now think of an older person (I’ve captioned for people living on their own who are in their 90s) who moves more slowly to take off his/her glasses or reach for a pair. Or who is reading captions. We do a pretty good job with accuracy; my own is around 97%, about average in the industry. I don’t think we’re not failing the customers, but the thing is, customers need more time to react to a prompt.

Not only are some waiting for a caption to come through, but their reading is also almost always interrupted by an “invalid input please try again” command that flusters them. So they either press zero for an operator to be put on a longish hold, or they just hang up.

Then there is poor-quality voice-recognition technology. Aging can affect a once-booming voice, but I’ve heard people quite clearly speak their account numbers only to be told, or interrupted before they finish, that “I did not understand you. Please try again.” If there’s a problem, put on a live agent on, preferably within a minute or two.

Calling the Doctor? Be Prepared to Memorize a Long List of “Options”

numbered buttons

Press one if you’re calling from a physician’s office…

Physician offices have long phone trees with a lot of  “options” to remember. Here’s a typical example:

  1. If you are a physician or calling from a physician’s office, press one.

Do their calls go to some special Bat phone that’s answered right away? Why do physician offices get priority anyway? Shouldn’t patients be the center of the medical universe?

2. If you are a pharmacist, press two.

3. If you are calling for a prescription refill, please hang up and contact your pharmacy.

4. If you are calling to schedule, change, or cancel an appointment, press three.

5. If you need to speak to a nurse, press four.

  • If you need to speak to Dr. Dre’s medical assistant, press 127594.
  • If you need to speak to Dr. Oz’s nurse, press 460367.
  • If you need to speak to Dr. Gupta’s PA, press, 9904523.

Actually, most doctors seem to have really long names captioning software doesn’t recognize. To continue:

6. If you are calling for a referral, press five.

7. If you are calling for a medical records release, please fax your request to 212-555-4593.

8. If you are calling to speak to our billing office, please hang up and dial 888-555-4529 and dial extension 460285.

9. To repeat these options, press six.

Is this really necessary? How about offering a short menu like “Patients and their representatives press one. All other calls press two” and go from there.

I’ve noticed men hang up more often than women.

Phone Trees Don’t Have to Be a Burden

I get it. Companies like automation and there probably is no going back. Going forward, more seniors will be perfectly fine using the web to schedule doctor appointments, check their financial statements, and order take-out. My teenager, who works for a pizza chain, tells me how much they hate answering the phone because it removes someone from the “make line” and phone orders often take several minutes. Online orders simply pop up a large order screen.

Too many phone trees expect too much from callers. If hiring someone to answer the phone isn’t an option, businesses that rely on this technology can make a few changes that make them easier to live with:

  • Drop the long-winded menus
  • Use the same voice throughout the menu
    • Slow down the tempo
    • Keep an even volume
  • Don’t bother with messages to entertain or inform people on hold. They sometimes confuse callers who think they’ve been connected to the sales office.  When a live person does pick up the line, the person waiting may not realize he’s no longer on hold! This sometimes results in the call being disconnected.

It’s OK to offer an online option to take care of customer service issues, but it should never feel like waiting for a live agent is some kind of punishment. Use a creative solution like an automated callback or a voicemail message that will be returned. Remember, seniors talk to each other about how they’re treated not only by their children, but by doctors, financial advisers (who usually have excellent phone skills), and the customer service they get from services as varied as credit cards and pay TV.

 

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When You Can’t See The Fine Print

How often do you read the fine print when you sign up for a new membership, open an account, or subscribe to a newsletter?

Unless there’s a credit card involved, I don’t even skim the fine print. And if there’s a lot of fine print, I cancel out.

But what do you do if you can’t even find the fine print?

With No Fine Print, I “Signed Up” For Amazon Prime

Just this morning, I discovered I signed up for Amazone Prime.

This isn’t the first time I’ve unintentionally signed up. It happened a few years ago and I didn’t know about it until I saw a $100 charge on my bank account. I couldn’t figure out how to cancel online so I called Amazon and got a refund.

The second time it happened, I had received a lot of Amazon emails but I thought they were simply marketing to me. I didn’t realize they were telling me about all my great benefits until the emails started asking why I wasn’t watching Amazon Prime TV. Didn’t I know what I was missing? After watching a few episodes of Sneaky Pete, I was hooked and kept the membership for a year until I received a renewal request and canceled.

Sad box person a la Amazon

You don’t want me? (Pixamaby/aixklusiv)

I suppose Prime would make sense if I was a constant Amazon customer but I’m not. I prefer to buy from local stores, even if they’re chains because most are independently owned. Plus, as a freelancer, it’s healthy for me to get outside the office once in a while and interact with real live people.

This morning I checked my emails and saw updates from an order I placed last night. My boyfriend gets a fair amount of Amazon gift cards where he works, and he generously gives them to me when he needs to order something. My fee: I order stuff I need or want. So last night, we used up almost all of the remaining balance from the current card to get:

  • Dog food for his two dogs and
  • A beauty product and pickleball racquet for me

And there was a second email congratulating me on my Prime membership!

Amazon Tricked Me!

I know I didn’t sign up for Prime during this last purchase.  I think the problem is we ordered using my tablet, which is old and a bit slow. Maybe I missed the box to uncheck for Amazon Prime and signed up by default for a free 30-day trial. I noticed that whenever I added items to my cart the shipping changed to two-day shipping with a fee from my earlier request for free shipping. I always use free shipping because there’s a major Amazon warehouse in Phoenix and my stuff almost arrives within a couple of days anyway.

In this case, there wasn’t fine print but a default action to sign me up for a service I don’t want or need. Technical fine print, if you will.

Lesson learned: If you see an email from a source you know wants your money, open it. This time, I figured out how to cancel my Prime membership online and yes, I now have a confirmation email.

The Phoenix Suns and the Fine Print About Brooks

My boyfriend gave me the idea to write about fine print after we placed our Amazon orders. He had been talking about how the Phoenix Suns nearly traded for the wrong player last week.

“Wait…which Brooks Brother are we trading?” (Pixabay/sonomabcd)

For those who don’t follow sports, the Phoenix Suns are our disillusioned local NBA franchise. (That’s basketball.) I say this because they never recovered from losing Steve Nash to the hated LA Lakers, where an injury promptly ended his impressive career. The Suns have never won a championship. They reached the NBA Finals twice and lost, first to the Boston Celtics and later to the Chicago Bulls.

Their record is surprisingly similar to the Phoenix Cardinals, who lost their single Super Bowl appearance to the New England Team That Shall Not Be Named.

Anyway, it seems that the Suns were prepared to do a three-way trade with the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies. Don’t ask me to explain three-way trades. What I do understand is that the Suns wanted Memphis’ Dillon Brooks but Memphis thought they wanted MarShon Brooks, and somehow, Washington’s Austin Rivers was left hanging between the two other cities.

At the time of the deal, Dillon was injured and not even playing so that would disqualify him from a trade. You’d think that these highly valuable professional franchises have attorneys and spokespeople would know this and be able to distinguish between two players with the same last name.

Friday Night Tweets

Over several hours on a Friday night as the NBA trade deadlines approached, reporters from all three cities–Phoenix, Washington, and Memphis–and the national media repeated different stories about what Brooks was going to Arizona and which city was claiming Washington’s Austin Rivers. Arizona’s sports radio station provided a helpful Twitter timeline for all this from no less than seven sportswriters reporting divergent stories from the three teams. It’s a pretty entertaining read:

  • “A [Memphis] Grizzlies source confirms it’s MarShon Brooks in the deal.”
  • “It’s Dillon Brooks coming to the [Phoenix] Suns. Reports of it being MarShon are wrong.”
  • “Two sources told me it was MarShon, not Dillon, after initial Dillon Brooks report, but then I was told deal was not complete.”
  • “Memphis ‘never’ discussed Dillon Brooks.”
  • Washington believes it was told Dillon Brooks in conversations with Memphis. The Grizzlies insist they told Washington it was MarShon. One rival GM texted me and said: ‘Maybe Washington can put Scott Brooks in if there has to be a Brooks in the deal.'”

My personal favorite: “Austin Rivers consistently repeated: ‘I don’t know where the hell I’m going right now.'”

According to the Twitter feed, Washington was supposed to be brokering the deal but hey, it’s Washington. Perhaps Javanka were involved with this. They get a lot of things confused.

As of this writing, Washington sent Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. to Phoenix for Trevor Ariza who I’m not sure was part of the original deal. The “Brooks Brothers” remain in Memphis. Most importantly, my boyfriend seems pleased with the deal.

Lesson learned: get an independent broker for any business transaction involving more than two parties. And speak slowly so people can understand what you’re saying.

Should You Read the Fine Print?

There are a couple of takeaways I see from these two episodes.

  1. If you’re personally invested in a financial sense and you don’t see fine print to skim, look for it in places like email and Twitter.
  2. If your reputation is invested, get a skilled team to double-check everything, everywhere!

 

 

 

 

 

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WiFi Calling To The Faraway Towns

Woman talking on smartphone!

My new-ish smartphone started prompting me a couple of weeks ago to install WiFi calling. Since we’re still getting acquainted, I’d lose the notice as soon as I tapped in my PIN and I’d get sidetracked by something else.

But then the prompt remained visible and I went through the brief process of installing WiFi calling, which I knew nothing about. In an age where nonsequiturs like “alternative facts” or “collusion isn’t a crime,” abound, I had reason to believe WiFi calling had nothing to do with my router. But, it turns out, WiFi calling (forgive me the Clash hit is now an earworm)  is exactly what it implies. Imagine that!

WiFi Calling Fixes The Problem of Shaky Cell Coverage

WiFi router

Now you want me to take your calls? / Pixabay – Wikimedialimages

I live in a weak cell phone zone. Every cell phone coverage map I’ve looked at except one shows my neighborhood to be in a weak zone. I have no reason to believe the supposed standout is any better than the others and anyway, I don’t like the company.

As a result, I’ve dropped many calls in my time. Since I use a smartphone for my business, this really was a problem.  I figured WiFi calling was worth a try. My new smartphone, which is also on a new network for me, seems to be better about hanging on to calls, even when I’m on the sketchy north side of my house.

WiFi calling is supposed to be faster than 4G and can connect in more places, which so far seems to have fixed my problem with dropped calls. I’ve had uninterrupted phone conversations in different parts of the house. It didn’t seem to cause any interference with the other connected devices in our home, either. To be honest, they don’t gobble much data. As far as I know, no one here is doing heavy-duty gaming or running a cryptocurrency operation.

What Took Me So Long to Get WiFi Calling?

So why was I suddenly getting messages to encourage me to connect to WiFi calling? And why didn’t I have it sooner?

To answer that first question, WiFi calling isn’t pre-set on smartphones even though those manufactured since 2016 can “seamlessly switch between 4G and WiFi” according to one FAQ. To answer the second question, most Android phones manufactured before 2016 didn’t have WiFi calling capability, including my older phone. (It became available on the iPhone 5c.) Perhaps it took a few months for my provider to realize I  hadn’t taken this step, or analyzed my bill and saw I was using their weak cell towers.

WiFi Calling Is Free! (For Now)

It occurred to me a few days after I installed WiFi calling that this could be one way for sneaky Internet service providers (ISPs) or mobile providers to charge for better services.

Much to my surprise, WiFi calling is free when used within the US, at least for now. It will not count toward minutes if you aren’t on an unlimited calling plan and apparently it won’t count against your data usage either since it relies on access to WiFi networks. Keep in mind, though, that Net Neutrality is officially dead. I’m not optimistic that ISPs won’t figure out a way to measure the data used for WiFi calling and charge accordingly. It shouldn’t be long before they take advantage of the so-called “light touch” regulation the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now embraces.

Am I paranoid? Well, arguably yes but I do rely heavily on the Internet for my freelance work. I conduct a lot of research and a good chunk of my writing lives on the Google Drive and Dropbox.

ISPs Love WiFi Connections

I had, of course, set my phone to work with my WiFi for Internet access. I don’t recall seeing a prompt to set up WiFi calling during this process which strikes me as odd.

ISPs want more devices connected to them and have created whole-home connection services, or WiFi extenders, for an extra charge. Comcast recently introduced the Xfinity xFi Pods, small pods you plug into an outlet and connect to Comcast’s xFi Wireless Gateway or xFi Advanced Gateway. Everything is set up using a mobile app that pairs the Pods with a router compatible with the whole shebang. You can also monitor performance through the app. Pods come in six-packs and three-packs costing $199 and $119, plus a monthly charge.

Cox, the major ISP where I live, has the Panoramic 2-in-1 WiFi Modem that looks like a smart speaker. It’s not explicitly calling it an extender but it does advertise a lot of the same benefits: whole-house coverage including normally dead areas “for all your devices” and a Cox Connect app. The WiFi modem has 24 channels and is available with the $60.99 Internet service, plus $9.99 monthly modem rental. The modem itself is rental only and includes Cox servicing and replacement.

Not that I have a choice, but the Cox package is more appealing to me than the Comcast one.

Perhaps the ISPs are colluding coordinating efforts with wireless phone providers to add smartphones to their services. There is definitely an advantage to having higher speed Internet than the minimum basic or starter packages. And if consumers are more satisfied with their wireless providers, they’re less likely to be tempted away to another network. I can see the mutually beneficial arrangement.

More WiFi Calling Benefits

As I’ve noted, WiFi calling is free throughout the US including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. And some wireless providers offer it free overseas in countries where the service is available, but you will still pay for international rates if you are placing the call unless, as I learned this summer, you call a US number that happens to be outside the US. In that case, the charge goes to the party that picked up the call.

You can, of course, get around this by using your Skype app or WhatsApp.

You can use WiFi calling when your phone is in Airplane mode. I do not know if this will get you kicked off an actual airplane; check with that carrier.

Have the engines stopped running?

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The State of the Spoken Langauge

For the past several months I’ve been providing captioning services for people who are hard of hearing and use one of those caption phones that let them read their conversations. Many customers are older people who also use hearing aids. I’ve written about how people are speaking faster than ever before, which makes conversation harder to follow (and caption!), and how telemarketing staff can improve sales to older folks by adapting their speech. It’s an interesting perch that lets me observe the state of the spoken language for a few hours each week.

I’ve certainly become more aware of my own speech patterns and speed. I’ve got my own fast-talking teenager who is nice enough to slow it down for me and his elderly (89 years old) grandfather who refuses to wear hearing aids.

Here are some other observations I’ve jotted down over the past several weeks.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Huh?

I have not actually heard this one but I’m waiting…/Pixabay, QuinnTheIslander

Phrases Can Come Back

Some phrases, like Tony Bennet, can have popular comebacks.

The most recent one is “blah blah blah.” Maybe it’s because it’s summer and people are tired and don’t feel like talking. Between the heat, storm, floods, and wildfires, it’s not been an easy summer for a lot of people. I’ve even heard the occasional “yadda yadda yadda,” an even bigger surprise because that one really got overworked in the 1990s.

Several weeks ago, I started hearing a phrase I don’t think I’d heard since childhood: “okey-dokey.” And it wasn’t coming from the people for whom I caption—it was from people speaking to them. Many of them sounded middle-aged or younger, and they were from all different backgrounds including a guy who sold farm equipment, schedulers in physician offices, hair stylists, and even tech support people.

“Okey-dokey” is something I recall being said by adults to children and my first reaction upon hearing it was that it was from one of those well-meaning but annoying people who talk to older people as if they are children. But then the farm equipment guy used it after a discussion with a customer about the right kind of tubing to use for an irrigation project.  The two were clearly acquaintances–they commiserated over the mess known as the Colorado River Compact–and I recall they also discussed parts for a second-hand tractor someone was trying to sell.

By the way, the software we use to record our captions focuses on the other party to a call. We generally don’t hear our own customers very well since we are only captioning the speech of the other person on the line. Sometimes we don’t hear customers at all.

The Urban Dictionary says “okey-dokey” first appeared around 1930. Another contributor said it’s a way to agree with something that’s pretty lame (like your boss reminding you about getting reports in on time), and yet another said it’s another way to tell someone to go fuck yourself.

Bless Their Hearts

Which brings me to another phrase: “bless your heart.” I was made aware by a friend who grew up in Tennessee, in a town literally halfway between Memphis and Nashville, that this is the Southerners’ way of saying precisely the same thing. It made me rethink a lot of people who I thought were my friends when I lived in the DC area.

I hear “bless your heart” so often among southerners that I assumed the phrase is intended for Yankees. But it’s all in the context of the conversation, as this Bless Your Heart 101 article from Southern Living explains. After reading it, I’m pretty sure that the empathetic version is only intended for fellow Southerners. Either that or they spend a lot of time on the phone with people they don’t like, bless their hearts.

Here are some other phrases Southern Living says are unique to the south but I declare I heard many of these growing up in New Jersey. I won’t argue their origin, though, because that conversation won’t amount to a hill of beans and we can talk about it til the cows come home. Be sure to watch the accompanying video, too—it’s a hoot.

Sports Idioms Live On In Spoken Language

Sports idioms in the spoken language live on and it’s a crowded field out there.

All across the nation, people leave voice messages that they “just wanted to touch base,” a phrase I rarely hear spoken live to another person. Interestingly, I hear this most often in messages left by women, usually to men.

Men talk a lot about “Monday Morning quarterbacking” oddly enough, it seems, mid-week. I could be imagining it but I caption more men mid-week than on Mondays and Fridays. I hear this particular phrase in the rare political conversation and among people who got stuck in a bad weather situation. Farmers also use it: many have thrown their hands up in the air when it comes to the weather.

And those tests the doctor orders? They want the whole nine yards. But if you want to know how much a medication will cost, even a ballpark figure, forget it. They say they have to jump through too many hoops to get this.

I once worked with someone who broke up with a guy because she couldn’t stand that he said “okey-dokey.”

Do you have a favorite or least favorite colloquialism, idiom, or clichè?

 

 

 

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Marketing to Seniors By Phone? Keep It Clear and Concise.

I work a part-time job where I have the opportunity to listen in on customer services and marketing to seniors delivered via phone.

For the most part, I’m not impressed. Aside from the obvious frauds (and I’m glad to report that many seniors smell a rat pretty quickly), far too many businesses are missing an opportunity to attract a group that has money and are probably more polite and patient than other age groups.

Seniors Have More Money to Spend Than Ever Before

Today’s seniors have more money today than they did a few years ago. According to a 2017 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, households headed by someone age 75 or older saw their net worth increase by 60%—more than other age groups.

I won’t get into the specifics but you can read an excellent summary on “the graying of wealth” from Forbes contributor Neil Howe.

One item that stuck out to me is that wealth is also much more evenly distributed among this generation. Marketing to seniors as a group is in itself a pretty good lead. Plus, they like to shop, if not for themselves then for grandchildren and other young people in their lives. And according to the American Marketing Association, research from AARP shows they’re brand-loyal as well. One sale can lead to more.

Marketing to Seniors? Slow Down the Fast Talk and Speak Plainly.

I noted in an earlier piece that people who make a living doing sales over the phone need to slow the hell down with their speech! At some point, only they will be able to understand each other.

It’s funny because these calls often begin at a nice pace. “Hello may I speak with Mr./Mrs. Smith?” Once they connect with the right person, these telesalespeople seem to go into speech overdrive: “IhavesomeexcitingnewstosharewithyouaboutournewskincareproductdevelopedjustforTheGreatestGeneration!”

Honestly I don’t understand many of these callers and I have several years in front of me before I collect Social Security or wave placards warning the government to keep its hands off Medicare.

Seniors love to take notes from phone conversations.

Marketing and salespeople who slow their speech to an accessible level will get some interest even from normally skeptical seniors. I admit they probably won’t make a sale right away because seniors love to take notes so they can “look this up” later, probably to make sure they aren’t being sold a scam. And if a senior isn’t interested, he or she will politely inform you before hanging up.

I have a friend, a guy in his late 50s, who sells e-commerce services via phone. He’s lucky in that he doesn’t make cold calls and only calls people who ask to be contacted so he’s already dealing with interested parties. But he has many elderly customers who not only renew the service year after year but specifically ask to speak only with him.

The reason? He’s got a great phone manner. He’s friendly, knows the product extremely well, and speaks clearly. He’s also very patient and doesn’t allow himself to get annoyed by repeated questions.

He’s created a great recipe for successful marketing to seniors.

He works on commission so it’s in his interest make quick sales. But he understands that not all selling can be done at a rapid pace. So he paces himself for those that take more time, even scheduling a time to speak with older clients when he knows the office will be quiet.

Live and Automated Customer Service Need Consistent Speed and Volume

One thing that amazes me is how people who make a living on the phone as customer service or IT reps seem to talk without breathing. How do they do that? 

Anyway, remembering to breathe will slow down your speech. Which is good for you: lack of oxygen will eventually make you faint. And it will make you a better customer service rep because I’ll bet you get a lot of calls from seniors. Keep a steady speaking pace, and don’t worry about long pauses: most seniors listening to you on the phone are writing everything down.

This is critical when it comes to people who work in financial services. Don’t rattle off numbers one after another. Say them slowly and be clear about which account you’re reporting.

In addition to live agents, there’s a lot of automated information seniors obtain via phone. Many times, these recordings are inconsistent with volume and speed. This is a terrible way to treat customers. Automation has already taken away jobs but why turn away real and potential customers? Talking fast to cram in a lot of “options” isn’t working. Seniors will just hang up.

The worst offenders seem to be physician offices, where voicemail is often set up by women with soft, higher pitched voices. Their voices are fine one-on-one in an exam room but not for an older person, likely with hearing aids, who’s trying to understand a long outgoing message. So they might hang up, but that means they will call again, tying up the lines. Or they may press any button to get to someone live.

And what’s with the volume variance in customer service call centers? There’s no good reason to screech up the volume to inform callers that you may be recording the conversation for “training and customer service purposes.”

And finally, does your service ask callers to participate in brief customer service surveys?  Well guess what? Seniors do participate. Amazingly, they give middling scores to some pretty awful practices. Be nice, be clear, slow it down, and you’ll get higher marks.

Providing Tech Support? Give Seniors Clear Definitions.

Marketing to seniors includes answering their computer-related questions.

Seniors are online for email, shopping, and researching everything marketers tell them.

Tech support people have long dealt with clueless customers. I remember hearing back in the day about how the “cupholder” on a new computer broke or worrying about giving the computer the flu virus.

People have caught up quite a bit. Still, tech support staff should be cognizant that many seniors don’t understand a lot of their language.

People often confuse browsers with search engines. It’s so rote, they don’t think about it.

Ask many non-tech people (not just seniors) what browser they use, and they’ll probably answer “Google.” This does not mean Chrome. This means they get to your company’s website through Google. Many people really don’t know the difference between a browser and a search engine. Or they forget: these functions are so rote, so automatic, that they don’t really mean much to the non-techies among us.

It also doesn’t help, as one tech support guy said, that Google and Microsoft use a similar color scheme.

So before you ask what browser someone uses, ask if they use IE, Firefox, Chrome, whatever. Some might even be using Safari.

Finally, understand that seniors want to use computers. They really do like them and they absolutely love email, Facebook, and online shopping. And while they don’t freak out like their younger friends do when the Internet isn’t working (they do things like read and chat on the phone), they deserve high levels of service. Because the services and products they’re buying might be from you!

 

 

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