IT Policies

Handling the misdirected call


Have you ever called a company but reached the wrong department? Annoying, isn't it? However, if the person you called takes time to get you the right area, you feel better. Conversely, if that person proves to be useless, or transfers you to a second wrong department, you become even more annoyed.

Think about your own experiences the next time you take a call that should have been directed elsewhere. The way you handle that call may affect the caller's view of you, your department or your company. Here are some points to remember:

Don't blame the caller. The caller might not have been the one to make the mistake. Maybe the receptionist hit the wrong button, or dialed the wrong extension, even though the caller knew the right department. Maybe they legitimately thought your department was the right one. Even though you might not say it explicitly, the attitude of "you, the caller, messed up" still can come through in the way you talk. The easiest and best approach is simply to apologize, and tell them they have the wrong department. Give them the right department and number. If all you do is tell the caller he or she reached the wrong department, you've done little to help. By taking the next step, giving the caller the right department and number, you make the caller more self-sufficient. The next time, that caller saves time and saves you from having to answer that call. If necessary, script the second call for them. There may be times where you want to tell the caller what to say when they reach the right department. I heard a great example recently, while working with the "general" help desk of an organization that had a separate help desk for Banner. A caller had called the general help desk because of a problem in signing on to Banner. The help desk person gave the caller the number of the Banner help desk, then said the following: "When you [the caller] reach them [the Banner help desk], make sure you talk about nothing but Banner signon. If you even breathe a reference to anything else, like Windows, they'll just switch you back to me, and neither of us will be happy." Offer to do a "real time transfer." Is the caller capable of making that second call by himself or herself? Sure. However, offering to make the call, and to stay on the line (provided you have time to do so) is a nice touch. One of my clients refers to this process as "sustainable support." The idea is to show customers the correct avenues for support, and to educate them so that they can find those avenues themselves in the future.

When you succeed in this area, you make the customer happier and reduce your call volumes.

About

Calvin Sun is an attorney who writes about technology and legal issues for TechRepublic.

6 comments
The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

I see your point but after the 15th call of the day somehow thsi would not hold with me! How about you give me your number and I just call you everytime I am looking for a business or department. You could be my personal 118 guy with your pointers there. Me: Hello is that company A Calvin Sun: Um, no,... this is Calvin Sun Me: Ah, Calin Sun, be a chap and put me through / get the number for company A Calvin Sun: Sorry, no number listed,I have company L however Me: WHAT,COMPANY L...but, but they SMELL! Good Day!

Tig2
Tig2

Many organizations now are teaching their employees to either transfer the mis-directed call to the reception desk or simply hang up. The issues around social engineering are in play here. My last contract taught me to disengage from wrong numbers as quickly as possible and to never provide the caller on the line with anyone's number. We did not have a listing of extensions for that very purpose. While I agree with your tips on courtesy, it is important to remember that the internal phone directory in many companies is a confidential document. At the very least it is Internal Use. Either way, you aren't always going to get- nor should you- a direction to the correct number. There has to be a balance in how these sorts of things are handled. Security must rear its ugly head abutting a real need for good customer service.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Having the barrier of a telephone often lends itself to people forgetting common courtesy. If someone accidentally walked into the wrong office, most people would be helpful in directing that person to the right one. And most people will gladly give directions to someone who lost his/her way. (Yes, ladies, we know, men won't ask for them.) That's good food-for-thought, Calvin. And perhaps we should just think about treating people the same way on the phone as we would in person. (Oh my, does this apply to pesky sales calls as well?)

ganyssa
ganyssa

and it is always one of two things - 1. they are a vendor looking for information that will make them look like they are not cold-calling the next person, and are hoping that I will provide it. Then the person they call with my information will believe they are more legitimate than they are. 2. They have honestly misdialed my number, as I am one digit off from a woman in a completely different department from mine. This is easily discernable by whether they want to talk insurance or computers. In the first case, they get polite, but not "helpful," as it is against company policy to provide the information they are looking for. In the second, I provide them with the correct name and extension, and transfer them to the correct person. I'm sure the second person would believe me much more courteous, but it's simply a matter of our corporate policy.

DadsPad
DadsPad

If you are not familiar with where the caller wants, it is hard to tranfer or look up the number online while you do your work. Everything is not as simple as it seems at first. However, courtesy is always important.

Stangg
Stangg

We often get calls coming through to reception asking for one of us in the infrastructure department, no matter what they say they are always salesman. I've now adopted the policy that if the person doesn't know the line they should be calling then I don't have time to talk to them (our main listed company telephone number is an 0845 whereas direct department/personal numbers are 0208). Harsh but it gets them off my back.