Coaching the contact centre – The art of conversation: Part Three

In the final instalment of our blog series on the art of conversation, Helen Beaumont Manahan, Head of Training and Development, discusses why coaching the contact centre is not a competitive sport.

Having great conversations with customers is what we’re here for. Frontline agents are the true interface between brands and customers. So, they need to be able to talk the right talk for your business to thrive. But in the digital era, how do you work on the art of conversation for yourself and for those you coach?

Talk, listen, repeat

If you do nothing else, remember that honing your listening skills will help you to improve the conversations you have. Emotional intelligence (awareness and management of your feelings and those of your listener) and mindfulness (being truly present and engaged in the interaction) are both crucial. Conversation is a delicate balancing act. And, as a society, we are arguably moving away from the right balance of give and take. Whilst our words truly matter, conversation thrives best when we hold speaking in slightly less esteem than really listening.

We all know someone who seems permanently set to ‘transmit’ rather than ‘receive’. Think about anyone in your life who is like that. Would you agree that those individuals are practically impossible to hold a truly beneficial conversation with? Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us fall prey to this somewhat selfish trait sometimes.

Coaching the conversation

Fortunately, mindful cultivation of deep listening, and seeking to really understand, acknowledge, validate and support, are coachable competencies. If we’re not great listeners yet, the good news is that we’re not doomed to a life of being poor conversationalists. We’d all often rather talk than listen for the simple reason that it’s often much easier. But, when we are too busy thinking of when to interject, the clever thing we plan to say next, or the stellar point we’ll make, we do a huge disservice to ourselves and more importantly, to the person we are poorly conversing with. In the case of contact centres, this is our customer.

It is perhaps a sad indictment of modern life that truly being listened to can often feel like the ultimate luxury. Yet, it is only when we fully understand this and the benefits it can bring, do we realise that deep listening and proper conversations with our customers is a service we can’t afford not to provide.

Be the best

The best advisors are often naturally good at this. At BPA Quality, we understand that these skills can be learned and coached. When capturing and modelling best-practice examples, it becomes evident that these born conversational superstars don’t shoot from the hip and make assumptions without probing. Coaching the contact centre is definitely possible. In fact, it’s our bread and butter. When a customer calls with an issue, it can be tempting for a seasoned advisor to leap straight to tried-and-tested troubleshooting steps. That’s often, but not always, if we haven’t taken the time to converse with our customer first.

Connecting with each customer can take mere seconds but the dividends can be huge. Taking the time to stop, listen, acknowledge any emotions, clarify and respond can massively improve the way we interact with our customers. It allows us to relate to them as individuals and therefore help them more effectively every time.

Some simple tips include:

  • Use open rather than closed questions to draw out the right information.
  • Check information, reflect and quickly hone in on the right way to move the call along.
  • Personalise each conversation, even if it’s just using the person’s name.
  • Stay authentic, ensure clarity of message and demonstrate clear intent to listen and understand.

Nobody benefits from assuming we know it all. Keeping open-minded in every conversation we have. Remember that we can learn something from everyone we meet. These are both great ways of coaching the contact centre to foster a growth mindset and open doors of opportunity for development which we otherwise routinely unconsciously shut off for ourselves and others.

At BPA Quality, we know the art of conversation is nowhere near dead – it’s alive and well and living in the best contact centres around the globe. What’s more, it can be a powerful antidote to the downsides of automation.

Contact us to find out how we can coach your contact centre team in true conversational skills.