One of my favorite memories of my mum is when my brother and I dressed up as Ghostbusters for a fancy dress event. Eager to be in a photo my dad was taking prior to the event, she threw on a white bed sheet, placed her glasses on and told us she was smiling at the camera even though she was completely hidden.
Hidden Smiles in the Call Center
Call center staff are in a similar situation. Day in, day out they deal with customers on the phone, having the natural urge to smile even though their faces are completely hidden (and not by a bed sheet!)
Smiling is a great tool for call center staff, as it can make employees more comfortable. Our natural tendency is to stick with attributes that are familiar to us; smiling decreases this need and hence can help staff experiencing an uncomfortable conversation to handle it better.
Some staff can feel that working in a call center can be stressful, with targets to hit and during times of high volume calls. Smiling has been proven to lower stress, helping employees to feel less anxious.
The other benefit to smiling is that it is a more effective leadership technique as explored in a study by the University of Montpellier. By smiling, staff can feel at ease taking the lead on their calls rather than the customer being in control (You will do this for me etc.)
What happens when a representative doesn’t smile?
If a representative doesn’t smile in a face to face situation, a customer is going to see straight away that they are not happy to be in that situation.
A smile can also affect the way staff sound on the phone, their tone of voice will lose enthusiasm and sincerity. Customers can form the opinion that the company does not care about their circumstances, which could lead to loss of custom if the client has received better service elsewhere.
How to keep staff smiling?
Staff should be motivated to keep their smiles natural rather than forced. There are a few simple ways that call centers can ensure that representatives smile throughout the day.
Colleagues should be allowed to chat with each other about the calls they have just had, this allows them to bounce of one another and refreshes them for their next call. If a representative has experienced an irate customer and starts their next call in the same mind frame, their calls are more likely to be negative. Sharing stories of what Mrs Smith’s cat Tibbles got up to recently can have staff smiling as they answer their next call.
Staff should not be expected to work continuously over an 8 hour or more shift, ensure they are allowed to take rests including tea, bathroom and lunch breaks. Walking away from their stations for 5 minutes at a time can refresh their mental attitude.
Having a daily email of motivational phrases/images and even the joke of the day can help. It can encourage conversation between colleagues and even customers to build up their rapport.
Companies should also recognize efforts and reward achievements, just simply mentioning how someone is doing well at a team meeting can be enough.
A way that Nestle ensured that their staff were smiling throughout their calls was to place a mirror in their stations. Director of Customer Service at Nestle USA, Michael Coburn explained “Nestle actually has branded mirrors at each phone reps’ station so reps can see if they are smiling when they are talking on the phone.”
Happier staff provide better results. Ensure your representatives are smiling, every time they pick up the phone by having a fun and happy workplace.
Remember Smile and Dial!
Gemma Baker is a Marketing Executive for Click4Assistance