Dial and smile: 10 steps toward better customer experiences by phone

Suggestions for helping your staffers improve their phone personas
by: Custom Toll Free , February 28, 2017

The ability to provide your customers pleasant and rewarding business experiences is rapidly becoming a competitive differentiator.

In a recent survey of B-to-B companies, for example, 43 percent of respondents rated customer experience as more important to their business strategies than products or price; authors expect that percentage to hit 50 percent by 2020.

What does that mean to your organization? For one, you need to ensure your employees are contributing to positive customer experiences in every business interaction, in every possible way.

That can be challenging when many of your sales and customer service transactions take place on the phone, where body language (which some believe constitutes the majority of human communication) is negated. That’s why call center employees must consciously reflect professionalism and positivity in their words, voices and inflections.

“It doesn’t take long after a customer hears the tone of your voice to pick up on your attitude,” advises an article on Dummies.com. “In fact, your customers know within 10 seconds of initiating the call whether they’re talking to beauty or the beast.”

Suggestions for helping your staffers improve their phone personas:

1. Show them how smiling during a call automatically makes your voice sound friendlier, warmer and more receptive. The science behind that? Smiling raises the soft palate in the back of your mouth, creating more fluid sound waves that improve your tone (which is why experienced vocalists open wide). Some employers even install mirrors for their agents as reminders.

2. While scripts help agents deal with contingencies, encourage genuine exchanges within the context of what you’d like them to convey. Sincerity breeds credibility.

3. Demonstrate the difference between a flat, slow monotone voice that denotes boredom and a quicker, higher-pitched, upbeat voice with multiple inflections that denotes interest. Ideally, agents should aim to speak at 130 to 150 words per minute; anything faster may make them difficult to understand.

4. Consider recording agent calls so they can critique their own voices. Some truly won’t recognize how they’re coming across without hearing it themselves.

5. Explain how inflection can change the meaning of a question or statement. The Dummies article pointed to the question “What would you like us to do about it?” as an example, noting how inflections on different words make it sound defensive, apathetic or helpful.

6. Agents will be more productive if they both enunciate and avoid overly complex vocabulary that might be misunderstood or construed as pretentious. But slang, filler words like “um” or “like” and overly informal language (e.g., words like “dude”) should be avoided.

7. Encourage agents to use the client’s name as a natural part of each conversation.

8. Teach agents to focus on what they can do for the customer, not what they can’t do. Statements to avoid: “I don’t know” or “I can’t do that.”

9. Note how stress can quicken breathing and tighten vocal cords, making voices sound strained. Breathing exercises like this one can help.

10. Finally, ensure your agents know to wrap up each call on a positive note by asking if they can help with anything else.

“Running a call center is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of managing a business,” advises Sara Angeles in Business News Daily. “Whether you have one or two people handling a small contact center, or a large team of call center agents, it all starts with the right training. And good customer service starts the moment agents pick up the phone.”

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