Magazine article The Masthead

Answer the Phone Quickly and Set a Time Limit

Magazine article The Masthead

Answer the Phone Quickly and Set a Time Limit

Article excerpt

Although I am not aware of any television station seeing a large decline in its ratings after a viewer has threatened to "never watch your station again," all stations must deal effectively with viewer complaints to be successful.

I have a few simple rules that I follow when I deal with the public.

First, I answer my own phone. We have no screening of calls.

This is important because the viewers assume that they will be connected to a secretary when they ask for me, and the surprise of getting right through usually puts them off balance and helps to diffuse their anger.

I get the same response if I call the person back as soon as I get a message. It's especially effective from a cellular phone.

I always allow callers to tell me, without interruption, what they're upset about. I limit them to three minutes (using the timer on my phone) or until they begin to repeat themselves. (I'm not going to get beat with the same stick more than once.)

At that point I'll give them a technical explanation about the content of their complaint. This usually involves a discussion of how we contract for programming and prioritize, assign, and present news stories, and what our limitations are in technical, public relations, and personnel resources.

Quite often this doesn't completely mollify their displeasure.

The hardest viewers to turn around are those who do not like or are offended by programming on the station. These discussions usually end up with me pointing out that television is a mass medium and since our existence is based upon ratings, we have to program what the largest number of viewers want to watch. …

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