Using single words in answers to direct customer conversations

When working as part of a telephone answering service, especially in an area such as funeral call handling, it’s certain that many callers will be in an emotional state. They may also not be sure which course of action to take, and how they should proceed with certain tasks or responsibilities.

It’s obvious that careful and sympathetic listening techniques are a key part in successfully handling such calls. Yet at school, for example, listening is rarely taught as a specific skill, and in life, many people still use the time when others are talking to plan exactly what they intend to say next.

In this way, small clues are easily missed. An example of this is a single word in a sentence that indicates a caller’s true feelings, worries, or need for knowledge. Responding to this tiny clue can take the conversation to where it really needs to be. Here are four examples:

• ‘I don’t NORMALLY feel the need to…’ The caller does appreciate that different actions might be necessary but is unsure of exactly what to do.

• ‘I’m not ENTIRELY comfortable in agreeing to…’ There may only be one area of doubt, or a single question that needs to be effectively answered.

• ‘I wouldn’t WANT to do anything that…’ At the back of this caller’s mind might be a reluctance to accept what actually needs to be done.

• ‘I’m not CERTAIN that the family would…’ Again, one or more doubts or concerns may prevent a course of action being agreed.

Have you noticed what each of the keywords in the above responses have in common? It’s that they might all be called ‘qualifiers’ – those words which are acting as a barrier to progress. Yet each of them can also suggest that, sub-consciously at least, the speaker does know that the desired situation isn’t achievable, and that some compromise might be necessary.

When dealing with emotional situations, a compassionate and empathetic response to such expressions can help reconcile the caller with what needs to be done, in a world that, at this time for them, is a long way from being perfect.

If you’d like to discuss how best we might act as a Contact Centre and help your organisation deal with such situations, please contact our Frontline team now.