At least once a week, I run across a business that doesn’t seem to know how to use the telephone. Here’s the story of one call I received which was unbelievably painful.
My cellphone rang, and I did not recognize the number of the caller ID. I answered it anyway:
Me: This is Robby.
Me: Hello, can you hear me?
Technician: Uh, yeah. It’s going be $287.53. Okay?
Me: What? What are you talking about?
Technician: For the door. We already did the oil change.
Me: Oh! You must be calling from the repair shop.
Technician: Yeah. So, should I do it?
Me: Well what about the other stuff I asked for?
Technician: What other stuff?
Me: The coolant light. The tire pressure. I gave you guys a couple of things. I can’t remember what all I said.
Technician: Oh. Yeah, we did all that. All that’s left is the door.
Me: Okay. Three hundred bucks? I guess that’s fine.
Technician: Okay. We’ll give you a call back day after tomorrow.
Me: Wait, you aren’t going to finish it today? It’s only 10AM.
Technician: We have to get the parts. So, you’ll get the car on Friday.
Me: I need it tomorrow. You know what, never mind. I’ll come pick it up today. How much do I owe?
Technician: I dunno, let me get the billing department.
Me: Never mind. I’ll be there soon.
It’s easy to see what happened here. The mechanic knows he’s calling from the garage, and he knows the problem with the car. He assumes that I too, know these things when I answer the phone.
Unfortunately, like most people, I have other things going on in my life besides waiting around for the shop to call me with an update. I also need information to make a decision. Here’s how the call should have gone:
Me: This is Robby.
Technician: Hello Mr. Slaughter, this is Ed calling from XYZ Repair shop about your 2008 Ford F150. Is this a convenient time to speak about the status of your vehicle?
Me: Yes, this is fine. What’s up?
Technician: Well sir, you asked us to complete four tasks: an oil change, diagnose the coolant light, check the tire pressure and provide an estimate to repair the locking mechanism on the passenger side door.
We’ve completed the oil change without any problems.
We’ve also determined that you just needed a top-off on your coolant, so we took care of that as well.
We determined that you may have a slow leak in your front driver-side tire, but nothing to worry about now. We added some air.
Finally, we have determined the cause of the issue with the locking mechanism. We can order parts, but they won’t be in until Friday morning. Our estimate for this repair, including parts and labor is $287.53. With the oil change, that would bring your total to $313.75.
Me: Hmm, well I’d like to fix the lock but it would be inconvenient not to be able to use the car tomorrow.
Technician: Not a problem sir. If you like, we can go ahead and order the parts and bill them for you now. Then we can hold the parts and schedule the service any time in the next thirty days. How does that sound?
Me: That sounds great. How much is it for the just the parts?
Technician: The parts for the lock repair are just $145.53. So with your oil change, your total is $171.75. Do you want to do that and pick up the car today? We can schedule the follow up visit when you come into the shop, or later by telephone.
Me: That sounds great. I’ll be there within the hour. Thanks!
Technician: Our pleasure. See you soon!
The alternate version of this conversation is not only clearer, it’s actually a little shorter. The only difference is actually having a plan for making outbound telephone calls.
These sorts of scripts are not difficult to write, but it’s sometimes incredibly difficult to realize that they are necessary. Every aspect of routine work may benefit from checklists, protocols, patterns or artifacts. The next time you make a routine phone call, consider this story. You might just realize the need for a system.