Answer the phone, would ya!

fred looks rightIt’s hard to imagine a more important customer service function than answering the phone. I have been trying to contact a couple of our suppliers (companies that we send thousands of dollars to on a regular basis) and I can’t get anyone to answer the phone. Voice mail followed by unreturned calls. Over and over again.

I’m not talking about customer service or sales calls. I am talking about calls from an existing customer to a supplier who spends millions trying to get us to buy and distribute their products.

I can understand the need to use voice mail and message taking when absolutely necessary, but it is difficult to imagine anything of more value to someone who sells a product or service than talking to your customer. After all, my calls are all about my desire to give your company money. What could be more important than that?

The advent of e-commerce and online sales has been incredibly liberating for us at We’ve always tried to make sure that a customer got a live human being when they called to order gaffers tape or batteries, or when they called for product info. Our phone rings less and less often, even though our sales are increasing, so we have lots more time and resources to field every phone call without adding phone lines or employees. It is the most important customer service function anyone around here performs. It’s easy and it is a service that is rarely abused by customers or prospects. They don’t call unless an interaction with a human voice is really needed.

Its obvious to us, that most people find it more efficient to deal with us (and most vendors) online when possible. Usually, you can get your questions answered and your order placed a lot quicker via the internet than by phone. That makes our job easier and frees up lots of resources to make available when the phone does ring.

We have resisted adding hold music or, even worse, some sort of recorded message to bore you while you are put on hold. If a caller is left on hold for more than 45 sec. the phone starts making a really loud and annoying beeping sound.

Occasionally, you may get voice mail if all our incoming lines are busy, but we strive to return ALL calls within the hour. It’s something that really matters.

When we make decisions on adding new suppliers and expanding our relationship with exisiting ones, how they handle the telephone is a very big part of our decision making process.

Why more companies don’t take advantage of the decrease in demand that e-commerce puts on their human resources is a mystery to me. Having a human answer the phone is a great way to build business relationships in a way that online interactions will never replace. You miss an awful lot when you are unwilling to answer the phone.

Got an insight into good customer service? Share it with us! is your online source for Permacel gaffers tape, Duracell Procell batteries, MagLite flashlights, Nashua duct tape, Bay State wire ties, Electratrac and Coast Wire extension cords, OnStage Stand mic stands, and lots of other useful production supplies.

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