When on the phone – consider an “engagement moment.”

By October 30, 2014Retail in the Know

When on the phone consider an engagement momentHere’s a suggestion on what I’ll call an “engagement moment” – a moment when you connect with the other person in a meaningful way. This applies to Call Centers (the focus of this article) but can also work with a call to a sales prospect or to your brother-in-law in Peoria.

There’s no end to the ways Call Center workflows are cut and sliced to find efficiency . . . and compliance adherence . . . and ways to cross sell . . . and a positive experience of the caller . . . and still have time for bathroom breaks.

The trouble is, sometimes when efficiency experts throw out the “bathwater” of excess seconds of time here and there, there’s a baby in there that gets thrown out too.

One helpful way to think about calls is to figure out how you want people to feel after they hang up. If you stop at “feels satisfied that their question was answered,” you’re missing the most powerful part.

It’s how the person feels that determines the success of the call, and good feelings are the fuel for making a more powerful call center. The trouble is of course, feelings are hard to describe, and even harder to project onto someone else. Many call center engineers push call center agents to use trigger words and terms like, “Are you okay?” or “I know exactly how you feel…” These have been shown to lower stress in the voice of callers, but it’s still a rather fragile connection to feelings and they can backfire if the caller senses the terms are coming off a call script.

I am going to jump to something else. Call it “engagement.” When someone is engaged, they are right there with you, and you with them. You’re connecting. You’re sharing. If you throw a moment like that into a call, you will create a bundle of advantages that make it worth the effort.

Here’s the wonderful thing about engagement. It doesn’t have to be about the topic at hand. This is why presenters often start with a joke. Laughter has a free pass to the soul. It makes your whole body shake and sends a rush of tingles to every cell. The audience will be more amenable to listening, and having a good experience. Those are engagement moments.

For call centers, throwing out jokes all day won’t work, but engagement of some kind can. Find something that will generate an engaged response – it’s hard to describe but you know it when you hear it. If a tidbit of information emerges from the conversation that you can ask about, ask about it. Hear grandchildren mentioned? Grandchild conversations quickly become engaged. Hear about their project to build something? Ask about it. Hear a comment about rain or snow? Ask what they like or dislike about the weather today. Let them talk, and if you hear that deep sense of connection with their answer, you’ve got it.

Here’s the tricky part. The call center agent has to actually care about the engaged moment. They have to be genuinely interested in the response. You can’t fake these things. Humans are experts at sniffing out insincerity. If a call agent doesn’t care, they should find a job in a different department.

There will be those who push call agents away from these seemingly frivolous conversations in order to lower the total call time average. Yes, this can be taken too far. There are limits to everything. But remember that from good feelings come loyalty and referrals, and a better rapport to discuss cross sell opportunities. There’s that baby in the bathwater.