The Art of Listening
By Barbara Bradbury
Communication consists of both talking and listening, and the best customer service reps are expert listeners.
Having recently changed cell phone providers, I was given a pass code to set up my account. When the pass code failed, I was offered online chat to resolve the issue. The customer service rep asked my name, then chatted back that her name was Barbara, too. Thanks to the anonymity of chat, “Barbara” could have been Mary, Nancy, or even Fred for all I knew, but I appreciated the effort to establish some common ground.
I explained about the pass code, and in a nanosecond I received a lengthy, albeit canned, response (no one types that fast!) that did not address my issue. I explained again that the pass code I was given didn’t work, only to receive the same response. I read it over carefully, certain I must have missed some key piece of information, but none was revealed.
Then “Barbara” asked if there was something else she could help me with. Incredulous, I told her that I hadn’t been helped with my first issue yet and, before I could blink, she sent me a link to a “give us your feedback” site.
In the fast pace of today’s world, too often we find ourselves listening with the intent to respond. Like “Barbara,” we’re planning our next move like a game of chess, thinking about what we will say and how we will counter while our customer is speaking to us. This can lead to misunderstandings, disappointing service, and unhappy customers.
We need to start listening with the intent to understand our customers, as if they were our best friends, confiding in us, and it was our responsibility to represent them. Once we develop this skill, problem solving becomes easy!
It’s even more difficult to make your customers feel that you are listening when communicating over the telephone. These four steps should help:
1) Start with a positive statement like, “I’ll help you with that; can you tell me more about it?”
2) Occasionally interject, “Yes,” “I see,” or even, “um-hmm,” while the customer is speaking. This is the verbal equivalent of nodding your head during a face-to-face encounter.
3) Remain objective and form no opinions. Let the caller finish speaking before you draw any conclusions.
4) When the customer finishes speaking, recap for clarity, saying something like, “What I am hearing is that…. Is that right?”
Practice listening with the intent to understand and see how it improves your customer relationships.
Barbara Bradbury is with Answer Plus Communications Inc and recently shared this in the company’s customer services tips e-newsletter.
The Evolution of Answering Services
By Robin Vaughn
When most people think of a telephone answering service, they imagine a group of operators answering phones and taking messages. That’s true, but the functions of a full-service call answering facility play a critical role in the lifeline of any organization. Supplemental communications outsourcing provided by live operators offers extended business support when it’s needed most. Aided by technologically advanced equipment systems, virtual live receptionists can implement fast information transmission.
Recently, a frantic husband whose wife was scheduled for upcoming surgery called her doctor after hours to discuss her worsening condition. He called the hospital but was not able to locate the surgeon. The next call he made to the doctor’s office was forwarded and answered by a telephone answering service operator who had the experience to handle the situation. Using the physician’s emergency call-screening protocol and priority notification, the operator was able to reassure the concerned husband and connect him to the doctor.
In another instance, an independent contractor was en route to a client presentation when she realized that the paperwork she needed was not in her briefcase. This meeting had the potential to lead to future job opportunities. If she walked into the prospective client’s office without the proposal, it would reflect poorly on her. Most likely, she’d lose the job and the respect of someone who could help grow her client list. Fortunately, the answering service was able to remedy the problem. The supervisor on duty found a copy of the proposal on file from a previous email transmission. It was printed and faxed for review in advance of her arrival, thus giving her a competitive edge.
Telephone answering services have evolved into affordable administrative support and solutions providers. Advanced features effectively address important business matters 24/7/365 and can help to save the day – or even a life.
Two Reasons Interviewing Fails So Often
By Brad Remillard
Do you have other employees in your TAS interview job candidates? Most employers answer “yes” to this question. The next question is, “Have you ever sat in the interviews to assess whether those employees are competent interviewers?” This does not mean doing a co-interview with them; the purpose is to specifically assess their interviewing abilities. Most answer “no.”
You are relying on an employee’s opinion to hire someone that will play a role in your success, yet you don’t even know if that employee is a competent interviewer. Basically you just cross your fingers and hope everything works out. This is a poor hiring process.
There are two reasons interviewing fails:
Inexperienced people often conduct interviews: This is by no means a negative assessment of those people. Not everyone is a naturally good interviewer, just as not everyone excels at music, sports, or math.
The vast majority of people learn to interview from people who interviewed them. So where did those people learn to interview from? You guessed it, from the people that interviewed them. And so it goes; this is not good training.
Interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed and honed. Skills need to be practiced or at least kept up-to-date to be effective. Asking the same questions you were asked fifteen years ago in an interview is not up-to-date.
Lack of training and practice creates one major flaw, and another is that interviewers don’t probe deeply enough into what the candidate tells them. The interviewer tends to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really probe for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, names, and so forth. They may ask one or two follow-up questions, but these tend to be superficial. Teaching interviewers how to probe deeply is the biggest challenge to overcome when training people to interview.
Vague questions equal vague hires: This happens when those conducting interviews don’t understand what the position entails. If they don’t really know the details of the job, they ask vague and generic questions. However, once the person is hired, the expectations of their manager aren’t vague and generic.
Less than 10 percent of hiring managers actually review the details of the job description with the interviewers. That means that 90 percent simply assume the interviewers know what is important in the job, what specific issues need to be probed, and what questions they should ask to determine if the person is qualified for the job. Is it any wonder interviewing fails?
Successful interviewing requires training, ongoing practice, deep probing, and understanding the position.
Kelly Shaver Receives CAM-X Donald Swift Education Endowment
Director On Call, a funeral home answering service, announced that one of their call specialists, Kelly Shaver, is the recipient of the Donald Swift Education Endowment (DSEE) CAM-X Award for 2012. The DSEE Award is presented to one dedicated person from a CAM-X member organization that most illustrates the mission and values of CAM-X. Compliments of the Swift Family, Kelly will travel to scenic Victoria, BC, in October to the annual convention. There she will have an opportunity to meet and network with industry peers from CAM-X. Congratulations, Kelly!
Amtelco’s Intelligent Series Now Available as Cloud Solution
Amtelco’s Infinity Intelligent Series (IS) is now available as a cloud solution through the Amtelco Cloud. Amtelco has been providing hosted call center applications for eight years. IS Cloud offers reduced IT complexity and costs, 24×7 support, reliability near 100 percent, and unlimited server capacity. Clients are amazed at the reduction in training time and errors due to the built-in guidance that steers each agent through complex call processes. All the information and tools agents need to complete each call is available to them, including websites, database information, photos, directories, and on-call schedules.
Professional Teledata Welcomes Jason Nelson as Telephony Engineer
Professional Teledata hired of Jason Nelson as a telephony engineer. He has fifteen years of telephony experience. Jason’s duties include support for eQueue phone switch, the Manchester co-located equipment and network for Freedom, the in-house eConn phone switch and network, phone and network equipment used by remote employees, premise installed eQueue and Millenium phone switches, and network infrastructure at customer sites. “Jason brings vitality and perspective to this position that fits perfectly with our vision for the future at Professional Teledata,” said Pat Kalik, president of Professional Teledata. “His experience and expertise make him the perfect person to join our telephony team.”
SMS Reply Handling Saves Time, Improves Accuracy
Amtelco’s Infinity Intelligent Series (IS) SMS feature provides the ability to send and receive SMS text messages. When an outbound SMS message is sent, a unique reply ID can be included and stored in the message history. The SMS reply goes to the operator who sent the message if still on duty; otherwise a dispatch job is created that is available to all dispatch agents. The reply is appended to the original message history for accurate reporting. The IS SMS feature also allows for unsolicited text messages, which create dispatch jobs that are available to all dispatch operators.