Contributed Column

dave mount blue bg.tifPersonnel Points

Call Yourself Up

In the late ’60s, a man named Robert Townsend wrote a book called Up the Organization. Townsend was the man who reinvented Avis to become a major force in the car-rental business. He also introduced the phrase, “We try harder.” His book was a best-seller in the business world, and I had reason to think about him and his words recently.

In the book, there is a chapter called “Call yourself up.” He was suggesting that people call themselves to see how strangers were treated on the telephone.

We have gone through a revolution in our communications over the last 40 years and I doubt that Townsend would recognize the voice of Avis if he called, but I did see a few examples in some of my own recent dealings.

For example, I passed the headquarters of the Albany newspaper a few weeks ago while on a business trip. There is a flashing sign with the temperature on it. The sign said it was 85 degrees. My car thermometer said 75. The radio said 75. The sign was clearly wrong. But this was the newspaper. It is supposed to be right.

How about all those times when you call one of those super-efficient answering systems? Have you ever found yourself in an endless loop? You dial a number and reach voice mail, which tells you that the party is not there, so please dial another extension. You do. That person is not there and you are instructed to dial the extension that you just came from.

Then there are those times when the line is always busy. The IRS is famous for this around tax time, but there are other numbers that seem to suffer from the same malady.

The IRS case is inexcusable because it knows it is tax time and it knows the volume of calls that will be received, but it doesn’t get enough phone lines. Fear not, though, because if you ever do get through, you will probably be directed into a loop or end up listening to an annoying voice giving you a list of incomprehensible options.

My final one happens when I place a call to someone and reach an assistant who asks if the person I am calling will know why I am calling. Well, if he knew why I was calling, I wouldn’t have to call in the first place and it would save us both a whole lot of time. In my 40-plus years in business, I have never allowed my assistant to ask that question. Want proof? Call me up.

I have spent a lot of my career preaching the gospel of customer service.

Our service has to be intelligent and human. I will not knock the modern communications systems. I remember being handed a stack of pink notes with the saying “While you were out” on the top. They were too easy to lose, so voice mail has a purpose, but it must be used properly and all calls should be returned.

In our computer age, telephone is not the only area to worry about. We all have Web sites, and we are very proud of them; but we have to remember that when business conditions, the seasons, or our company personnel change, we need to change the website. If we don’t, we look silly.

For example, I was looking for information on a particular jazz concert the other day and went to the presenter’s website. I thought I had the date wrong until I realized that the Web pages were for last year’s concert.

You can fill in the blanks here, but you get the picture. We owe it to ourselves and our customers to give them the very best we can give and to understand what we are giving. Service goes a long way toward insuring our longevity as a business. Service is the reason those little hardware stores not only survive but thrive in the face of Lowe’s and Home Depot.

I have to go and check my website to be sure everything is current. •

Dave Mount is the owner of Westaff in Burlington.

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

InstanceEndEditableext/javascript" name="permalink.js" src="../../scripts/permalink.js">

Index of Contributed Columns

For information on submitting a contributed column see here.