Why is it so hard to call us at PayLane?

For the last couple of months, calling us at PayLane has not been an easy thing. Never was, to be honest. But now, it’s even harder than ever before.

I would say even more: you are not able to call us at all. And you won’t be.

Historical background

When I started to build PayLane, I thought that being available for customers (and prospective customers) 24/7 — no matter what — was the most important thing in the world. I decided to show our phone number at the top of every possible website, document etc. Of course, with a short note that we are available 24/7.

As the team was 3–5 people (including one Account Manager responsible for answering the company’s phone), it was not possible to handle all the phone calls, especially 24/7.

So I’ve decided to change it. We’ve moved the phone number to the contact section of our website with information that we have the number XYZ if you want to call us 9 AM — 5 PM CET and the number ZYX if you want to call us before 9 AM or after 5 PM (with a note that this is the number on which you can call if you have some urgent matter that can’t wait till tomorrow). The second number was my (CEO’s) cell phone number. I thought it was something we should do. I still thought that our main responsibility was to be available 24/7.

I was wrong. My cell phone was ringing at random hours, in the middle of the day or the night, on Monday afternoon or Sunday night. That was insane. Especially that these calls were often not important at all (from sales execs, from prospective customers that decided to call me in the middle of the night to ask some questions with answers that could be easily found on the website, from our customers asking if everything’s fine with X or Y).

In addition to that, I started to ask our Account Managers what their calls look like, who’s calling them, when and why. The answers were almost the same as in my case. People were calling to sell something or to ask some basic questions. More than that — prospective customers that were calling were often people with whom we didn’t want to cooperate anyway.

The next change had to come. I decided to hide phone numbers on our website. We’ve moved our contact section (with both of the phone numbers) to the merchant panel, so only people that had an account at PayLane (no matter if it’s a test account or a production one) could see the phone numbers and call us.

Sales execs stopped calling us. However, prospective customers were still calling us at random hours. Just like our merchants. And 99,9% of these calls were not urgent at all. And the ones which were urgent — we knew about them before, as our systems already notified us that we had some technical issues. And we were already fixing them.

I was ready for the next step. I was ready to terminate the idea of being available 24/7. So we removed my phone number from the contact section. Now, we were available 9–5 CET. And if any unknown person was calling me at some random hours, I simply didn’t answer the phone.

And… nothing bad happened. Ok, there were a few people that decided to tell us how stupid and unprofessional we were because they were calling and calling and calling. And no one was answering the phone on our side. Sure, but after a while, we all realized that nothing bad really happened. We simply solved all the problems and answered all the questions by email, facebook, twitter or by phone (in working hours).

But it was still imperfect for me.

I don’t like phones. Ok, maybe not phones. I hate when someone’s calling me. Especially if it’s someone whom I don’t know (and don’t know why he’s/she’s calling me) or someone who decided to call me because he/she can (without trying to schedule the call before).

The reason is quite simple: because it ruins anything I am doing at the time. I’m kind an all-in guy. If I do something, I focus only on that. I don’t do anything else, I don’t think about anything else. I do all I can to do it as well as I can, as quick as possible. And when someone’s calling me in the middle of something… ahh… I hate it. It ruins everything. I have to stop whatever I was doing, take care of the ringing phone (answer or reject it) and then get back to work. And of course, getting back to work takes a lot of time as I need to find the place where I stopped, I need to get focused again and start all over again. It’s simply a waste of time.

And I’ve discovered that it’s not only my thing. Because people were calling our Account Managers, they had the same problems. They were taking care of some bigger case and then the phone started ringing. He/she answered the phone, answered all the questions over the phone and after that he/she got back to work on that bigger case. And just like in my case — they were wasting a lot of time because now they had to find the place where they had stopped, get focused again and start all over again. Waste of time. For them, for the company and — in the long run — for the customer as well.

If we had a typical call center, I guess it wouldn’t be so painful. But for us it was. We didn’t have a typical call center and we didn’t want to have one. We have Account Managers which are responsible for many things at once — for calls, emails, face to face meetings etc. And for such multitasking guys, an unsuspected ringing phone is not a good thing.

And then an even more interesting thing happened.

In June 2017 our only Account Manager decided to leave the company and start another journey somewhere else. I found someone else to take her place, but he was able to start working at PayLane at the beginning of August. For the whole of July, we were to be without any Account Manager. So I became one.

I had no problem with that. Being a CEO means that you need to be ready to do anything that has to be done at any time. No matter what kind of stuff has to be done. If you need to be Account Manager — you need to be one. If you need to be a Web Developer — you need to become one. If your employee needs an assistant to do their job, you become one until you hire someone for that position.

But in such situations, there is always one big problem: the time. In my case that meant that I had to be CEO and Account Manager at the same time (I’ve also held a few other positions as we were a small team). I was working dozens of hours per day, but still, there was no chance to handle everything. Especially because of this ringing phone.

I decided to move forward. I asked my colleague to remove the phone number from the contact section. That meant that we had no phone numbers anywhere. That meant that if anyone wanted to contact us — he/she could use the web form, email or social media. No phone. No chat. No possibility to get an answer now, in real time.

That was a tough decision. But that was also something I wanted to do for a really long time. Since I realized that this unexpectedly ringing phone means wasted time for me and my colleagues. And now I was finally ready. And so we did.

And what happened?

Nothing special. Of course, we had some people yelling that we are stupid and unprofessional, but once the dust settled, everything went back to normal. But without this ringing annoying phone.

Now what?

Now everything seems to be fine. Customers, customers of our customers, business partners, random people can always contact us. And they have many, many ways to do it. They have email, they have the web form, our Facebook, and Twitter. Also, it’s not a problem to find me and my contact details on the web. You can write to us and we will get back to you as soon as possible (but not now, as probably right now we’re handling something else and we want to focus on that one thing and do our best there).

Of course, if you prefer to talk by phone or Skype — it is possible. Sometimes we also prefer to look at the human being we’re talking to or hear his/her voice. But these calls have to be planned. These calls have to be scheduled. So we would have them in our calendars and we would know that at some particular time we have a call with X, so we can’t plan anything else for that time.

And if anything really urgent happens at PayLane — trust me, in most cases, we know that already, as our systems notify us in real time.

People often ask me

how it is possible to do so many things and handle so many customers by such a small team we’ve got at PayLane. My answer is quite simple: because we make hard and unconventional decisions and try to improve whatever we can.

And also automate as much as we can of course :)