Are you looking for lost and found? We have a phone number! Well, its a phone tree with a voicemail…
Consumer: “um… hello? Yes! I’m looking for the Lost and Found. I’m missing my white iPhone, and it’s crucial. I have pictures from the birth of my son on there and cannot replace them. Please please please call me back…”
A typical offering from organizations such as airports, psst check out the airport-specific story here, but does a white iPhone narrow that property search? Lost and Found phone calls leave the department with a regularly ringing phone and having to play constant phone tag. A phone number to manage the lost and found process might be the absolute worst approach for your customers and staff. Let me tell you why.
Phone Calls and the Lost and Found Problems
A phone number seems like the logical choice for customer service required for lost and found.
- Realtime: Lost property is an urgent customer problem, and a phone call can have staff on the line for immediate resolution.
- Flexible: A customer can lose any item, so phone calls provide a flexible communication tool to help troubleshoot.
- Standard Tool: Customers are used to contacting you by phone, so there’s nothing “new” to learn.
Phone Calls just aren't Scaleable, especially Realtime
Phone calls are a 1 to 1 medium. 1 to 1 means your customer service is limited to the number of available staff to answer incoming calls.
From our festival experience fro example, we can have 3-5 people working Lost and Found at any one time, which supports an event for about 50,000 people. Around 3-7% of customers will need lost and found assistance each day.
So… 5 staff members are helping 3,500 customers a day. 700 customers per staff member.
Music Festivals, albeit an extreme example of a lost and found operation, clearly demonstrates the common scaling problem of phone calls to manage lost and found. A 1 to 1 time will require equivalent staff to the number of customers, which gets expensive very quickly.
Plus, as you miss phone calls, less efficient future work is created through voicemails.
Voicemails have two huge detractors as a tool; phone tag and useless information.
Playing Phone Tag
“Please call me back!?!??!”
Synchronous communication has to sync up to be effective. Missing the initial call or not having the found property at the request’s time leads to follow-ups. Welcome to Phone Tag. As Urban Dictionary defines:
Phone Tag (n) – The process where you try to call someone and only get their answering machine. They, in turn, get the message and call you only to get your voice mail. Repeat until one of you give up.
Wasted time, poor customer experience, and an ever-increasing workload thanks to phone tag.
Useless Information- flexible as a detriment
Customer Voicemail: “Uh… yeah. I lost a white iPhone while I was walking around. I think it might of been by the concession stand but not sure. Give me a call back at…”
Voicemails allow for unstructured inquiries from your customers. Incredibly flexible for customers to tell you what they lost, but this means that 99% of the time, this information will be useless upfront and thus require calling the customer back for relevant information to begin searching the property. Plus, Phone Tag is needed to clarify information during the followup. At this point, we’re all going a little insane.
Self-Service: a properly scaled solution
Lost and Found is a massive customer problem. Customers seeking help outnumber your staff by 100, often 1000, to one. You can choose to hire additional staff or pick a proportionally scaled solution instead.
So ditch the phone calls and opt for Self-Service instead.
Advantages of Self-Service:
- 24/7 Access: Customers realize they’ve lost property at all hours of the day. Self-Service lets customers identify their found property 24/7.
- Crowd Scaled Solution: lost and found is a scale problem directly proportional to your audience’s size. Increase your staff’s effectiveness and eliminate extra work by outsourcing the identification and matching of found items to your audience.
- Exceptional Customer Service: remove gatekeepers, reduce reliance on business hours, and provide automatic self-help steps to deliver an outstanding customer experience.