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.