Enquiry Handling Decision Making Model

Enquiry Decision

When managing a service that deals with hundreds of thousands of general enquiries and requests a year, in a large company,  it helps that you have a simple way of deciding how you should respond to enquiries.

I have developed the following model to be used as a tool and for discussion in the team.

In deciding whether we need to respond directly to a particular enquiry we need to consider two things:

  1. Do we and/or the customer have easy access to the information we need to answer the enquiry?
  2. Is this an enquiry that so complex that it needs to be answered by a specialist?

Although we are able to successfully resolve about 85% of enquiries straight away, the increasingly complex nature of customers’ questions and demands means that we need to signpost or refer some enquiries to staff with more appropriate expertise.

We have identified the follow four ways we define and handle enquiries.

a) Gatekeeping

We define gatekeeping as the process of managing and sometimes limiting general access to information, a service or a location. So if the customer already has the answer e.g. they have been instructed on what to do via email by colleagues then we reinforce the message or help them to understand or take the action that has been requested.

For example the customer may have already been told the answer or what to do next by colleagues elsewhere in the organisation. Our role in this instance should be to reinforce that message, explain any processes that are not clear and act as a gatekeeper to more specialist services.

b) Answer the Enquiry

Obviously an answer is something that is said, written, or done as a reaction to a question, request or statement.

If we have the answer readily to hand, it is a straight-forward enquiry and something we are fairly familiar with we can answer the question fully and with reference to no one else.

c) Signposting

This usually involves guiding the enquirer to where the appropriate information is available to them and what they need to do to access it. This could be a website, self-service resource, a telephone number / email address, the name of a service or their location.

It may be that the answer will require the customer to consider a great deal of information. In these instances we signpost enquirers to an appropriate resource.

d) Referrals

We define enquiry referrals as a process of directing some to a different colleague to get a more complete answer or a specialist service. Usually these colleagues are located in support service with more knowledge about the enquiry.

We like to think we provide “informed referrals” so that when we refer an enquiry to a specialist we provide part of the answer, explain the enquiry and situation as far as we understand it to the specialist, introduce or re-introduce the enquirer and help manage their expectations of the before they meet our colleagues.

Referrals usually take place when we cannot access the information, where we are unsure, or if we do not have the authority to decide or provide information.

by Scott Castle
1 Novemer 2011
updated 17 March 2017