I can haz phone skillz?
August 18, 2011 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I work for a financial services firm dealing with high-net-worth clients and I have been tasked with helping a new-ish (young) male co-worker with his client service phone skills.

We are going to try recording him on a pretend call so he can hear himself and I'll point out where he can improve.

He's eager to learn and just a great guy and this is the one factor in holding him back from doing well. He's not confident when he speaks to clients and comes across kind of monotone.

Help me coach him - any sites, suggestions, ideas are all welcome.

I am trying to get him access to one of those Skillpath one day seminars but the firm won't pay until he passes some tests in the middle of September.

What can I do to help him in the meantime?

Thanks, Mefites!
posted by Mysticalchick to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect he's having trouble remembering to listen to the tone of his own voice. How about make a test call with him and mirror his tone?
posted by devnull at 7:55 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Toastmasters. Have him stand up when he talks. Have him smile while he talks.
posted by bfranklin at 8:05 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

2nding the advice to stand up while he is on the phone. It seems to make a huge difference for me.
posted by COD at 8:15 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Let him listen to/roleplay some good phone calls and make sure he notes what they're doing--their tone, their inflection, their turn of phrase. Mimicking is a great way to learn this kind of stuff.
posted by litnerd at 8:18 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of the silliest, yet most effective tricks I ever learned about dealing with VIPs on the phone was to smile throughout the conversation (no matter how crappy you might feel). It warms up the tone of your voice, and makes you sound more friendly.

Are these complainy or otherwise difficult phone calls he has to field? Or is it more a sales phone call, where he's supposed to provide them with information and/or service?

I've dealt with VIPs (in a political context, but still) for a long time, and I found that putting on a "game face" of friendly, upbeat helpfulness, was the best way to navigate the phone call. Only the biggest assholes didn't respond to it.

So here was my mental process:
1) I gotta make (or take) this phone call. Two second mental pep talk.

2) Put smile on face, mentally resolve to look for ways to help the caller

3) Answer phone, find out what caller wants (or broach subject to discuss), using "helpful" language (how can I help? Let me help you with that... was that helpful? Glad to be of help!)

4) Have necessary data to hand to answer questions. If data not available, assure caller I'd get right back to them AND THEN DO SO as soon as feasible.

5) Look for ways to think outside the box. Sometimes the caller has a really intractable problem, and is looking for options to consider. Try to be creative (within appropriate bounds).

6) If problem solved, thank them for their business, etc. If not, try other options or discuss an additional phone call after some research.

Good luck!
posted by LN at 8:51 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Great stuff, you guys! Thanks ... I'll pass it along to him.

In person he's a little stiff but passable. On the phone he's almost robotic. I really do think recording him and playing back will be very helpful. ("That sounds painful" he said.)

And toastmasters! What a great idea! I will suggest that as well.

Keep 'em coming!
posted by Mysticalchick at 9:04 AM on August 18, 2011

I always use what I call my "kindergarten teacher" voice when I deal with customers on the phone. The tone of voice you naturally use with a little kid is super-friendly and animated, and people respond well to it. Just to be clear, you don't use kiddy language... it's just a change in tone from the normal speaking voice.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2011

Listening to your own voice will help, but many times, it's heat of the moment that makes the person tense and freeze. So I would even do mock calls. Use vip to call you and you pretend to be the HNW client or the appropriate department/company the kid would be calling. You pretend to be variety of types..impatient client, very nice, talkative client, demanding client, rude client, etc...this gives him practice to work with various situations and to think on his feet. Practice is what makes one better when it comes to people interactions, I believe. If he has other mentors or if a receptionist is willing to spend 30min pretending to be a customer, perhaps he could get a couple of calls in with him/her during lunch hour. It'll also get him to use the right terminology and practice explaining more difficult financial jargon to the client, and do it in a professional manner.

When one's talking to a client, a lot of it is about impression...so even if he's young, lowering his voice, not like a snob, but professional, serious, but in an enunciated, serious tone will earn him respect, and he'll be able to build rapport.
posted by icollectpurses at 1:34 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I ever learned about dealing with VIPs on the phone was to smile throughout the conversation (no matter how crappy you might feel). It warms up the tone of your voice, and makes you sound more friendly.

I can tell when people are doing this and it creeps me out. They sound insincere and it sounds like their lips are sticking to their teeth. That's why beauty pageant participants put petroleum jelly on their lips: because they're just the sort of fake people who have to fake smile all the time and get dry teeth, which means their lips would stick without lubricant.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:51 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's putting a fake smile on your face, Mo Nickels, and you're right, a false smile has no effect on the voice apart from broadening your vowels. I'm talking about warming up the sound of your voice, so that it sounds like you're genuinely pleased to be taking the call. It's not easy to do, by any stretch, but if you can do it, it does make a difference, IMHO.
posted by LN at 6:54 AM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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