Getting Your Team in the Zone

By Glenn Pasch

At one of the press conferences at the Masters Golf Tournament, Lee Westwood, the round two leader, was asked if he was worried because Phil Mickelson had caught up to him. He answered that he could only worry about the shots he hit. This got me thinking about two different types of call center agents: those that focus on what they can control and those that focus on what they cannot.

Have you ever worked with someone who always had a reason why they did not hit their production levels?  When you speak to them, they usually give you excuses for their lack of success, usually something like this:

  • “It was the list of people you gave me to call.”
  • “I’m getting the people who just want information.”
  • “No one listens.”
  • “It’s just not my day.”

Just as any great golfer tells you that they get in the “zone” (meaning that they focus on what they are doing and block out everyone else), you can help your employees get into their own “zone” and stay there.

So how do you change the focus of your employees? To improve the training and performance of any employee, whether it’s customer service training, sales training, or management training, you need to assist your employees to focus on what they can control instead of what they can’t so they will be more successful. Here is what your agents can control on the phones:

Tone of voice: Agents need to make sure that their tone is pleasant and clear and their volume matches that of the caller.

Attitude: Are your agents focused on the call they are taking and how best to serve this customer?  Or are they still focused on the call they took ten minutes ago, when the caller frustrated them? Carrying that attitude into the current call will kill any chance of delivering great service.

Focus: Where are your agents looking when speaking to a customer?  Are they focused on their screen, as if the person was sitting right across from them?  Or are they more concerned with what is happening next to them – or across the room? They may not realize it, but if an agent is looking across the room, a distracted tone will come across in their voice, and the customer will feel that the agent is not listening or giving them his or her full attention.

Listening skills:  Nothing frustrates customers more than having to repeat themselves. Make sure your team is taking the time to listen and ask the correct questions to make sure they get all of the information they need the first time.

Pace: It is easy to speak to someone over the phone at the same pace as you would face-to-face. The problem is that people understand a good deal of what you are saying by your body language. Over the phone, you do not have that benefit. I recommend having your agents speak at half speed. This will slow them down enough so those on the other end of the line can follow what’s being said.

Strive for understanding: Agents read their script repeatedly during the course of a day. Many of them begin to go into an “autopilot” mode, where they are not focused on making sure the caller fully understands what is being asked. Train your agents to take the time to repeat information back to the person or summarize it before ending the call.

Here are some things your agents cannot control on the phones:

  • The agent is the fifth person to call them today.
  • The person’s child just spilled their milk.
  • They just sat down to dinner.
  • They are just walking out the door.

As your agent’s coach/supervisor, you must listen in on their calls and give them your feedback, pointing out when they are focusing correctly. This will help to train them to monitor their own progress.

A Helpful Tip: To help my sales teams, I created and posted these five questions on the bottom of each agent’s terminal. To this day, some of my friends who used to work for me still remember using these to help their agents, and they have used the same idea when managing their own employees.

1. Did you open the call correctly?

2. Did you present the body of the script correctly?

3. Did you present the offer correctly or get the correct information needed?

4. Did you listen to the customer and offer the correct response?

5. Did you do everything you could on the call?

If my people said “yes” to these five questions, that call was as good as a sale. They did everything they could control. So many times we focus on results instead of the effort. It may take a lot of encouragement to convince employees that excellent effort will turn into sales, but the result will create a more productive and motivated workforce.

Glenn Pasch is the president of Improved Performance Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations improve their customer interaction. They provide the proper training to convert conversations into sales and positive customer service experiences.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2010]

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