By Jug Varner

As one who has spent considerable time as a public relations specialist, I have developed a real pet peeve in recent years about what is happening in business communications - in this case, telephone etiquette.

That is not the only complaint I have for corporate CEOs who put the “bottom line” so far ahead of customer service and their employees that you know they really don't give a damn about anything but lining their own pockets with company perks before leaving for an even better job. But, I digress. That is a subject for a book, not a mere article.

So, let us get back to business telephone etiquette, or the lack thereof, in the growing trend of most businesses switching to automated telephone answering systems.

What an utter disregard for the customer's time!

Obviously these companies must think their own time is far more important than that of their customers - customers whose spending dollars made the companies successful in the first place. Or have the CEOs forgotten that fact?

Perhaps you and half the world have experienced the typical routine of the modern business telephone response. We call their number and are greeted with a recorded message offering options in their button-pushing maze. Each clicked button takes us to the next plateau of buttons, ad nausea, until after many ticks of the clock we finally reach the phone of the person we seek.

More often than not, however, we are greeted by yet another recorded message that goes something like: “Hi. This is Bob Whosit. I am sorry, but I am either on the phone with another customer, or away from my desk. Please leave your name and number and I will return your call as soon as possible.”

That return is seldom “soon” and in some cases never “possible,” resulting in more wasted customer time on call-backs to begin the routine all over again.

These are some of the questions that come to mind:
Is the money saved (if any) worth customer dissatisfaction and bad PR?
Or, do any of these businesses really care?
Why don't I move my business to a company that does (if one exists)?

Wouldn't it be better if companies worried more about these two most important assets and secrets to success: Satisfied customers, and well-trained and well-treated employees who know the customer comes first?