Recently I had a phone message from my son’s health insurance company. The woman sounded like a young girl and spoke so quickly, softly, and indistinctly that repeated playbacks did not tell me who she was or why she was calling. When my husband tried to print out the message, the computer program was unable to decipher what she had said.
I have a gripe with those who hire people to man their call centers. Why would you not hire people who speak distinctly? Why would that not be your first consideration when those answering your phones are projecting the image of your business? In truth, unless we move to video phone calls, one’s appearance is irrelevant; however, one’s ability to communicate effectively should be your number one priority in your selection process.
Please understand that I am not talking about those with an accent. I have no problem with accents as long as the individual speaks the language well and can be understood. [The woman I was talking about in the beginning of this article did not have an accent. There is no doubt she was American born.]
When I worked with the call center employees for a high-end clothing line recently, all their employees spoke the language well. And, several of those employees had an accent. I was not hired to work on their diction; I was hired to show them their more mature-sounding speaking voice which would better reflect their luxury brand image.
If your company relies on the phone for the purpose of selling or for customer service or information, then your call center employees are a most valuable part of your business. When you hire people in your firm for other positions, you obviously have certain requirements. You may be looking for education, experience and/or communication skills. When you hire for the phone, shouldn’t good communication skills be a prerequisite?
This doesn’t take a lot of common sense. To communication effectively, those you hire should satisfy 5 requirements:
- speak with enough volume;
- speak at an average rate of speed – somewhere between 140 and 180 words per minute;
- articulate their words distinctly;
- listen to the person on the other end of the line
- talk TO the person on the other end of the line and not AT them. (By the way, spitting out a memorized script is not communicating.)
If the image your business projects is important, imagine how much more successful your company would be if your call center employees were able to effectively fulfill those 5 requirements.