Small Businesses Can Look Big By Investing In Useless Phone Trees

This article suggests small business can make themselves look like big, important, inefficient businesses simply by getting a hosted PBX system. A robot will offer choices like, “1 for sales, 2 for service…” but all the options will route to the same operator.

Why capitalize on the efficiency, directness and nobleness of a small organization when you can waste your money and your client’s time? — BEN POPKEN

Hosted phone system boosts image [Freep] (Thanks to Kevin!)


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  1. MeOhMy says:

    You can do this for free with open source software anyway.

  2. acambras says:

    I am always so impressed when I dial a number (particularly an 800 or 866 #) and a REAL LIVE PERSON answers the phone. It doesn’t happen often enough IMHO. I’ve had it happen with LL Bean, my local (town-owned) electric company, and a few other times I could probably count on one hand.

    When I was in grad school, I was a graduate assistant to the Dean of one of the colleges. She hated automated phone trees and made a point of having a real live person answer the phone. Sometimes students would call us (even if they needed to call Financial Aid or the Registrar’s office) because they could get a real person. Sometimes it was a pain in the ass (and we still had to refer them to an office with a phone tree), but I kind of took pride in the fact that our office still had the human touch and that people knew and appreciated it.

  3. OnceWasCool says:

    I can tell you for a fact that it cost companies money by installing something like this. I do purchasing for a living and if given a choice, I will call somewhere else.

  4. cde says:

    I don’t think that this is such a bad idea. A simple 2 layer phone system (3 for another language) would be great in directing customers to what they need since not all people are clear or precise in telling the operator what they need. At the very least, the pbx can have virtual extensions corresponding with a given problem, so even though the same operator gets the call, they already know the customer needs billing or hr depending on the extension that rings.

  5. Buran says:

    @cde: That’s assuming the customer doesn’t get lost in phone-tree hell and hangs up and calls someone who has real live humans answering the phone, not a soulless computer.

  6. AcilletaM says:

    Now all those companies with the phony legal department addresses can have the phony legal phone extensions.

  7. Meatloaf says:

    Sometimes these hosted PBX systems can be useful tool for a small business (even if there only is one phone operator). I’ve personally been using a solution though GotVMail ( It screens the call so you know what kind of call is coming in before it’s answered, you can set up different operating hours for different extensions – as well as different automated messages, and you can set up call forwarding. It is not a waste of money and it actually enhances the efficiency, directness and nimbleness of my small business.

  8. lore says:

    Don’t those sort of phone tree systems allow for trending analysis so they can see what percentage of callers choose option 1 vs option 2, etc, so that the company can decide where they need to direct their resources? I’ve always thought that was a key reason why phone trees could be useful (other than getting people to give up waiting on hold!)

  9. zolielo says:

    Neat pic!

  10. tape says:

    honestly, the most pressing concern here is: who’s the hottie office babe in the picture, and where can I find more pictures of her?

  11. fhic says:

    I confess to doing this with my cabinet and furniture business, which consists of me and two part-time employees. No matter what button you pressed, it eventually went to either my home office phone, the shop, or my cell. I finally got tired of messing with the darn PBX software. Now I just give people my cell number, and it makes my life easier. And they seem to really appreciate it when I actually answer the phone, which is probably 50% of the time.

  12. pestie says:

    I work for a small (about 20 people) company, and one of the things our customers love most about us is the fact that we don’t have a phone tree of any sort. If you call us any time between 8:00am and 7:00pm Eastern, a real, live person will answer the phone. Often if you call earlier or later, too, people are still here and will still answer the phone. Even if most of the staff isn’t in yet or has gone home, whoever answers will do their best to help you. We have several thousand customers and still manage to do business like this. Others with far more money and employees could manage it, too, if they gave a rat’s ass.

  13. smackswell says:

    Whatever she’s having, i’ll take two!

  14. I couldnt even read the article I was so distracted by the asphyxiated beauty in the red blouse and the high heels.

    Please. If you want us to read the articles…

  15. Mr. Gunn says:

    Dear Ben,

    Please post more pics of that woman.