In an era of pre-written scripts, tight procedures, strict call times and intelligent software, it’s difficult to avoid “robot syndrome”. Tom Robinson examines, how we can stay as ‘fresh as a daisy’…
We all know how it feels to be processed. It’s the feeling of being a number rather than a person, the feeling of not being special. As customers, we all like to feel special.
One of the ways to tackle this is by re-engaging with customers; making them feel like they are not the hundredth similar caller of the day. This can be achieved through:
- Mental focus
- Avoiding auto-pilot
- Genuine interaction
Imagine that two tennis players are playing in the final of Wimbledon. One of them is thinking through his moves, remembering his coach’s advice, analysing every point and envisioning lifting the trophy. The other player is looking up into the sky, wondering whether he should have pizza or curry at the weekend and making a mental note to buy some more tennis shoes. Assuming they are of a similar level of ability and fitness, which player is likely to win?
Relating this back to the call centre industry, it is imperative to know what your goals are.
Ask yourself, like an athlete:
- How do you learn from your mistakes?
- How do you analyse your recent interactions?
- Do you get the most out of your coach?
- Do you constantly strive for improvement, or are you happy to be average?
In other words, what do you have at stake?
By the very nature of some hospitality or telephony work, repetition is part of the role. It’s quite common, when you know the job well, to go on ‘auto-pilot’; routine and instinct take over. Said another way, you are not “present” with every person.
Get enough sleep. People are most likely to “go on autopilot” when they are sleep deprived. Try and ensure you get at least eight hours a night.
Vary your work. Automatic behaviour is most likely to occur when you’re doing repetitive tasks. Try to vary what you are doing at least once an hour, even if you just change the position in which you are sitting or standing, or change the way you explain something.
Feed your brain. Research strongly suggests that eating balanced, regular meals helps your brain stay sharp and engaged. Aim for 20% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 40% fruit/vegetables. Also, never leave more than four hours between meals or snacks. [Great idea – British Gas Premium Energy lay on a free breakfast for all of the call centre (1)- Editor].
Take energy breaks. Taking a short bathroom break, stretching in your chair, getting a glass of water or going out for some air can all help refresh and re-energise your mind.
For someone to feel like they are the first customer of the day, do everything you can to avoid “robot syndrome”. It’s no good for customers, and it’s certainly no good for you!
It’s very rare that anyone will “drift off” into their own little world when they are fully engaged in a conversation. Like when you watch a boring TV programme, it’s easy to zone out. When the programme captures an emotion – whether anger, humour, inspiration or intrigue, it’s easy to stay present.
When dealing with customers, you need to engage with them personally. Make them laugh, ask them about something that makes them think, try to stimulate a positive emotion. Whenever anyone asks me a question that I know is not read from a script, I feel like they’ve dealt with me as a person, rather than me as a number.
In telephony nowadays, there seems to exist a fantastic irony – while the industry is well aware that people hate talking to machines and robots and get frustrated with the multitude of options to choose from, humans in call centres often act like machines and robots.
There are many methods we can adopt to ensure we deal with people as if they are the first caller of the day. It’s hard – particularly when you know the job inside out – but if we really want to be at the forefront of our industry, we have no choice.
Tom Robinson is Head of Training for front-of-house company MITIE Client Services that specialises in delivering and training five star customer service.