The Customer Hears How You Look: A Learning Moment


by Doug Tedder
November 29, 2016

“What are the top essential qualities of a support center analyst?”

I posed that question during an HDI Support Center Analyst (HDI-SCA) class I facilitated. The students in the class provided some great answers. “Troubleshooting skills.” “Technical know-how.” “Ability to work well under pressure and deadlines.” “Good communication skills.”

All great answers, right?

According to the 2015 HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Report, the top rated skills for the support center analyst are customer service, communications skills, the ability to learn quickly, troubleshooting/problem solving, and the ability to work under pressure.

Oftentimes, the only interaction end users have with IT is through the support center. And, often that interaction is a telephone calljust a telephone call. But how the analyst handles the telephone call will often make (or break) the experience for the customer.

The life of the support center analyst (SCA) is one of constant activity. Each contact is an opportunity to shine, not only for the analyst himself or herself, but the overall support center. The SCA continually moves from one call to the next, opening tickets, talking with the customer, looking up knowledge, resetting passwords, fulfilling service requests, escalating issues and requests to other resources, and following up. Despite this constant ever-changing world of activity, the life of the SCA can become a bit tedious. Even though each call is with a different customer or end user, often the issues are very similar. The life of the analyst can become a bit chaotic, especially during a major incident. The SCA rarely lacks for things to dothere’s always a knowledge article to write or a ticket that must be reviewed. So it’s understandable if the SCA sometimes forgets the critical nature of the customer’s call to the support center.

I’ve always said that a good analyst is three parts psychologist, one part technologist. The customer needs the SCA to be empathetic without being sympathetic. The customer wants the SCA to understand, not feel sorry for them. The customer wants to feel that they are a valued customer and feel like the SCA cares about their situation. This is why we discuss “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” during the SCA class.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian did a study in 1970 about communication. One of the things Mehrabian discovered is that when it comes to verbal communication, “tone of voice” comprises 85% of communication over the phone. Only 15% of a message gets across with words. People tend to believe the tonality and nonverbal behavior during communication.

But when the SCA is on the phone, a customer can’t see the non-verbal behavior, right?

I would argue that the customer can “hear” how you “look.” Really.

Consumers often form a mental image of the SCA just from the tone of his or her voice. The customer can actually “hear” what you’re looking like. If the analyst speaks in a monotone, the customer “sees” that SCA is actually disinterested. Mumbled speech indicates to the customer that the SCA may not be so knowledgeable or helpful. A high-pitched tone of voice leaves the customer feeling that the SCA is nervous and unsure.

No pressure, huh?

So what can the SCA do to ensure that he is projecting the right image while on the phone?

Try putting a small mirror next to your workstation or telephone. By doing so, you can see your facial expressions and your posture. Are you smiling as you speak? Are you sitting up straight? (Yes, all of those things your mother said you needed to do!) If you are, your tone of voice projects confidence and friendliness. Your tone of voice indicates that you’re engaged, which builds trust with the customer. You have a great interaction with your customers every time. Try it out, and watch how your facial expressions and posture influence the tone of your voice.

Remember, your customer hears how you look! 


Doug Tedder is a strategic, innovative, and solutions-driven IT service management professional with more than 20 years of progressive experience across a variety of industries. He’s a resourceful and hands-on leader with track record of success implementing ITSM and IT governance processes. Doug is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager and holds many other industry certifications. In addition, Doug is an accredited ITIL Foundation trainer and HDI Support Center Analyst and Support Center Manager instructor. Follow @dougtedder on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.


Tag(s): customer experience, customer service, training, supportworld

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