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Useless from MPS


I’m going to let you in on a little secret: if your phone service is awful and I happen to run across it, I might decide to mention it as a Bad Example in talks and articles for years to come.

Today is the turn of a major shipping company — let’s call it MPS, for Major Parcel Service — to be held up as a Bad Example. MPS made an automated call to my house yesterday morning. They informed me that I was “scheduled” to receive a package that day; that it would arrive between 8 AM and 7 PM; that it required a signature. Oh, and that they could not tell me, even approximately, what time it would arrive, nor could I submit a request for an arrival time. The most I could do was hit the “1” key to hear the message again.

As messages go, that one was rather useless. Does MPS really think I’m going to hang around all day, not stepping outside the door, in order to accommodate their delivery? For me, at least, the message was quite irritating, a sort of reminder that MPS regards their time as more valuable than my time, and that MPS can’t be bothered to make a guess about delivery times.

Fortunately, ifbyphone customers can do far better than MPS. If you use ifbyphone, you can make interactive outbound calls to customers using speech recognition and DTMF digits to collect customer feedback. “Would you like delivery in the morning or afternoon? Around what time would you like the delivery? Thank you, we will arrive between 1 PM and 3 PM…”

Does this really matter? Absolutely. In August 2007 — remember that one-day terrible storm here in Chicago? — I received an automated phone call from American Airlines. My flight from New York to Chicago had been canceled and I had been re-booked for the next day. They gave me the new flight information and the option to press 0 to speak to an operator. That was absolutely terrific customer service, because it gave me information and the ability to manipulate that information in a useful way. I promptly re-scheduled the flight to a more appropriate time without having to call into American Airlines, work my way through their menus, and wait on hold for the next available agent. Pressing 0 got me to an operator who knew exactly who I was and why I was calling.

The moral of the story: outbound calls are an intrusion. They must be interesting, to the point, informative, and interactive, not just convenient for the company that makes the call.