Does your firm have a Business Avoidance Department? I run across BADs all the time.

Working on doing business with a new firm, my assistant called the company to ask for the names of contacts who might help with three issues at the clearinghouse. This was our very first real contact with the company, outside of the initial talking to the bosses and the courting and “everything is rosy” phases. The company’s contact person was not helpful and clearly didn’t want to have much to do with anyone from our office. She said something like, “I can’t suggest anyone who might help you at the clearinghouse.” In fact, she could not, or refused to, help with three separate and distinct questions. It was BAD in action. The head of a firm may not even know that he has BAD personnel in the ranks. In our case he does now, since we told him about our very first telephone experience.

A great example of BAD is the telephone queue. I recently had to phone the Disney Vacation Club, a timeshare organization, for a customer. I never did speak to an actual person. If you want to observe the worst queue design in the world, look up Disney Vacation Club and try phoning it. Don’t worry; unless you push the number for sales, you’ll never actually speak to anyone, nothing will be accomplished, and you will run screaming from your telephone within 15 minutes, perhaps even tearing your hair out in frustration. It’s enough to make one hate Mickey Mouse.

When you design a phone (or any) system for your office, think of what annoys you and do the opposite. For example, I try to have very simple answering messages like, “Hello. This is Richard Hoe Investments. Please leave a message of any length at the beep.”

And, while I’m on the subject, is there anyone on the face of the Earth who does not know that he or she should leave a message at the beep? More time is wasted by the cell phone message-taking system than anything on the face of the Earth.

A message could go like this, “Please leave a message at the tone.” Or, “Please leave a message at the tone, or press the two key to send a fax.” The message does not need to say, “Simon Grunch is away from his phone. If you want to send a fax, please wait for three minutes and dial 7483. If you want to leave an urgent message, please press one and stand on your head, and if your message is not urgent, please press seven and jump up and down. Please wait for the tone, or press 17 and leave your message at once. Please do not leave trading instructions; we cannot accept trading instructions by phone message or e-mail.”

That last sentence is valid, but wouldn’t it be better to have it disclosed on customer account agreements and avoid wasting time on the phone?

Here’s one more: “This is Simon Grunch, and I’m in Oysterville on business and can’t be reached. Please phone my assistant, Georgia Lineblocker, at 999-999-9999…” The message goes on and on and on from there. Really, just say something simple like, “I’m away; please leave a message at 999-999-9999. Thank you.” No one really needs all that excess information. It’s BAD. And you don’t need to say that you are on vacation in the south of France or anything like that. I think the only acceptable excess information in a message would be this, “I’m in Stockholm to accept the Nobel Prize, and I may be unreachable for a time.” Or, “I’ve just been elected president of the United States. Please phone 999-999-9999 and leave a message.”

You get the idea. Try to avoid things that make customers unhappy. Help stamp out BAD.

Have a phenomenal week and do great things.

Check out more blog entries from Richard Hoe.