Working in a call center is serious business. There is a reason why Human Resource departments prioritize health and wellness: the job can be extremely stressful at times. Imagine listening to an average of 80 people a day (or night) complain about a product they purchased, a service they received or just about anything they need a customer service agent for.
Every agent knows the importance of every call he receives. A three-minute call can make or break a customer’s perspective about a brand or a company. Some customers would express their frustration by using a loud tone of voice, strong language and sometimes a request for a supervisor. There are, however, those who prefer to keep their complaints to themselves and eventually ditch the product or company without any opportunity for resolution.
Behavioral analytics, a branch of business analytics, uses big data in understanding the interactions and dynamics in an organization. This aims to help businesses identify and operational risks and opportunities. In a call center setting, behavioral analytics supports agents in identifying red flags in telephone conversations. By analyzing voice signals, a voice analytics software is able to detect whether a caller is annoyed, confused or indifferent.
Scientists share information on what every contact center needs to know about customer behavior. These include the accent and tone of voice callers prefer and those that they find annoying, which may aggravate an already tense conversation.
“Non-native speakers are less believable”
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that non-native speakers tend to sound less credible. The effect was not due to stereotypes of prejudice against foreigners but because foreign accents are more difficult for the brain to process.
It is thus advisable for call center agents to adopt a neutral accent. Call centers usually provide an accent training to help agents with heavy foreign accents.
Subtly match your caller’s accent
Many irate calls do not start irate. There are those that begin with warm pleasantries but eventually turn into a heated exchange. One reason is miscommunication due to an unfamiliar accent. Scientists from the University of Manchester suggest that vocal imitation of a foreign accent can improve spoken-language comprehension. If you and your caller have different accents, try to match his accent to help him understand what you are saying. Just avoid sounding like you are mocking your caller.
Men and women prefer masculine voices
A recent research published in the Public Library of Science revealed that masculine voices command strength and social dominance. In choosing a leader, individuals of both sexes prefer those with deeper voices. The findings were consistent across different domains of leadership.
Callers tend to rely on agents with deeper voices when seeking to resolve a problem. If you naturally have a high voice pitch, you do not necessarily have to adopt a deeper voice. Just keep it under control.
A male voice pitch is more memorable
Not only do women find deeper voices more dependable, a masculine tone also makes it easier for them to remember. Scientists from the University of Aberdeen in the UK report that a woman’s memory is sensitive to male voice pitch. In one experiment, findings showed that females’ visual object memory is enhanced when the name of an object is spoken by a masculine voice. This adds evidence to the power of a deeper voice.
Men like women with higher voices
A 2013 study suggests that having a high voice is not always a bad thing. Dr. Yi Xu and his colleagues at the University College London suggest that men listeners prefer a female voice that signals a small body size. High voices, but not squeaky, also signal a submissive person on the other line.
Take note of vocally-produced sounds
Detecting vocally-produced noises such as giggles, expressions of disgust and snorts can help in understanding a caller’s mood and behavior. When a customer throws in an “ugh!” it can be a signal of frustration and a possible wave of anger.
Read the pauses
A paper released by the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) explains two functions of a pause: a brief suspension of the voice to indicate limits and relations of statements, and to indicate the speaker’s emotions. If your caller suddenly pauses in the middle of a discourse, this may reveal his uncertainty, hesitation or uneasiness.
Beware of the uptalk
Uptalk is increasingly becoming a part of modern communication. It is done by inserting one or more question marks into a declarative sentence. It is typical among people in California. This can cause confusion in a conversation. In most languages, it indicates a question or a signal of surprise. If your caller is “uptalking,” you may need to be a little more attentive to know whether you are being asked a question or not.
Mind your tone
Expert interpreters at the AIIC warn that a person’s tone of voice can lead to serious problems. Overreaction to being in a tense situation can manifest itself by “an exaggerated attempt to sound calm”. For interpreters, this can make them appear to be totally bored. For call center agents, this can be irritating for a customer.
Fraudulent behavior may be detected from voice calls
A team of software developers launched a software that analyzes emails and voice calls to determine fraudulent behavior. They review fraudsters’ past activities, message threads and phone calls to detect behavioral patterns. First, the developers identify whether a conversation is emotional or not, and whether strong language was used. They then assess other forms of communication used (e.g. instant messaging) that point to the conversation.
A customer’s history of irate calls can suggest something more than dissatisfaction. It may be wise to speak with fraud experts about this.
Compassion and empathy
UCLA professor Dr. Albert Mehrabian wrote about the importance of listening to conversations. Listening to the other person compassionately is neither a technique nor something that can be faked. It happens naturally when a listener empathizes. Listening genuinely is a must in any call center guide. Dr. Mehrabian advises against injecting one’s own unsolicited thoughts and feelings into the conversation. Avoid jumping in too fast.
The emotional contagion
Call center agents must know how to protect themselves from the adverse impact of listening to complaints, trying to resolve problems and basically acting as an emotional punching bag every day in the office. Dr. John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago warns that upbeat emotions such as joy and anger can be passed from one person to another during conversations. After dealing with a difficult customer, breathe and relax a bit. Shake off the negative vibes before taking the next call.
John Anderson is a Web Developer, Creative Content Director, Social Media Specialist and Commissioned Artist. He is particular in watching web and social media changes and uses. He is also a commissioned artist and cartoonist. He is interested with various internet trends.