When I speak to people about our simulator ACES™ some people will interchange the term roleplaying and simulations but there is a difference. As I tend to be a little biased on using simulations vs roleplaying, I thought it would be a helpful exercise to create a chart to list out the similarities and differences between the two activities. This is illustrated in the chart below. There is room for both types of learning methodologies but studies do show that allowing students to spend time in a simulator vs roleplaying, they do perform better. Here is a link to a study conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology conducting a side by side comparison of traditional roleplay in a call center vs simulation.
I was speaking to a colleague the other day about their experience with engaging with executives in a contact center and the topic of confidence in making decisions came up. So it got my brain and curiosity in motion about what types of confidence factors impact the performance of your contact center. I put together a list of departmental groups in a contact center where you could measure the amount of confidence you have then measure the overall confidence in total contact center performance. Here is my list
- Executive staff
- Agent performance
- Reports and customer scores
When you break each one of these down, what would you say your confidence level is that they are performing at an acceptable level and which ones have a strong impact on how well your contact center performs?
Let’s just take the agent performance. What is your confidence level that 80% of your agents are performing at their top level? A great deal of their performance also lies in their own confidence level. In a post written by Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders she outlines five areas to evaluate in how to build the confidence levels of your agents. The true starting point for improving this confidence metric is creating a culture of trust and connection.
Dr. Jodie Monger, from Customer Relationship Manager states “when they (customers) have confidence in the answers given by your agents, there is a direct impact on operational cost.” She also states that this trust is the primary emotion customers want to feel when interacting with an agent.
So maybe the first place to start in raising your confidence score is taking a deep look at how well your organization is building a culture of trust. Rather than just provide lip service your action speak louder than words but your words can also convey whether or not someone can trust you. In a study conducted by the University of Glasgow people can detect whether or not you are trustworthy by the sound of your voice. This study fascinates me and really makes one aware of how we influence other’s opinions of us just from the way our voice sounds. But that’s an entirely different topic.
To sum this up, try to calculate your confidence levels of the four areas I outlined to see where your contact center stands and which one would score the lowest and then assess how improving the trust levels would change the confidence levels.
The other day I was sitting in on a live discussion session lead by Brent Schlenker, coFounder of TLDC.us & Host of #TLDCast. The topic was can Snap Chat or other tools like this be used for corporate training? I enjoyed the interactive format of Brent’s forum and was glad I attended. It was very clear from the beginning, you really need to stay on top of how these application work in order to understand the features to use or to stay away from. The challenges that I see with anything like Snap Chat, Instagram and others is that you are not in control of what features work one day vs. the next or which version each user has. Similarly to online learning when it first came out – you were at the mercy of which browser was supported and which version the users had. Most of these social media tools have limited windows of time from which you can display or publish content which can be a negative or minus as well. Based on what I learned I would say there are ways you could use Snap Chat for training. Here are some of my ideas:
- Brief testimonials or stories on a topic of a good or bad experience
- Create filters to support your brand and encourage channel partners or customers to chime in what they like about your product
- Create a group and use it challenge each member to demonstrate a skill or task to compare best practices
- Announcing upcoming events and training in a fun way
- Embed URL to redirect users to login page after an introduction to an event or training activity found online
- Create short commercials on what they have learned in another training activity
I would not use this for any type of assessment tool, or required training as some people may not be as skilled as others at using this type of application.
If you have any stories you’d like to share on how your company used something like Snap Chat please share!
Did you know that researchers have proven that our voices give away a lot of what physical characteristics we have? What characteristics? Here is a list of three:
- Your Height – The Acoustical Society of America in 2013 released information on a study they conducted to ask listeners whether or not someone was over six feet tall. In most cases, taller people had deeper voicec
- Age- In a study conducted published by Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology the subjects were able to give a fairly accurate range of someone’s age from the sound of their voice – in addition to the choice of words they were using as well.
- Attractiveness- It seems that the sound of your voice may have the power to draw the opposite sex. It’s probably no surprise that men are drawn to women with higher softer pitched voices and women tend to be drawn to men with deeper voices but in a study conducted were not able to prove if these were long-lasting matches
We also tend to draw judgment on other personality characteristics as well such as income, social status, and level of intelligence. For example, if you heard someone speaking like Marilyn Monroe, you would probably jump to some quick conclusions about their looks and personality. We have built-in biases that work at the speed of light that formulate judgments of people we are speaking with.
This makes me question, are companies training staff to remove biases on how they treat customers from the sound of their voice? Are you quick to assume a caller may not be very technical savvy if they have a high pitched voice when calling in for technical support? Do you treat people differently because of an accent that is not close to your own?
If you work in a call center, I’m sure you may have popped one or two items in the suggestion box from time to time. You’re not alone, according to studies conducted by eGain Corporation and Five9, providing agents the ability to provide accurate and timely answers to callers is their biggest frustration. Much of what is driving this challenge is the pace in which systems and information are out of synch.
It’s not uncommon for agents to have 3-4 windows up at all times from disparate systems in order to look up customer information and provide the most current information to them to provide the all-important “first call resolution”. There is a lot of pressure on agents to perform their tasks in a way that is Checking the Box of all of the criteria their performance is being measured by.
eGain conducted a global survey of agents in US, Canada, UK and APAC, the top two problems were finding the right answer and when they did find the answers from more than one resource they were not consistent.
This would lead us to believe that the solution to this situation would be to invest in a KM system or combine the disparate systems into a more modern and user-friendly but these systems typically require a committed investment in both time and money. Call centers today are running as fast as they can just to keep up.
The delicate balance of choosing where to spend money on upgraded systems, infrastructure, and human capital is a constant struggle for call center executives.
One solution is to provide agents with realistic training scenarios that teach them how to make decisions. Knowing which window to access the correct sequence or which resource has the most accurate information. One way to do this is to provide them with realistic situations during the training process. Using a simulator like our ACES would be the best way to allow them realistic practice but if you are not able to implement this solution here are some other recommendations.
Create flashcards that allow them to make snap responses to common situations
Playback live calls and pause the screen and then poll the class to see what the agent should do next and then push the play button to show the real-life outcome
Have seasoned agents tell stories when they made the wrong decision and what the consequences were
Give agents access to customer feedback to see what types of experiences they have had and how to avoid giving them a bad experience
We all wish that these problems could be fixed quickly but it’s not realistic to think that at the pace in which the markets forces require call centers to constantly change with the combined pressure of managing expenses that this will happen. So in the meantime, finding resources to help agents manage some of the chaos is probably a safe bet and will be an investment that won’t go to waste.
Much like responsive website developmnent, our brains too can be modified to respond and learn differently in new situations. In this episode, Nancy and Allison talk about how our brains can change over time when we learn a new skill even beyond the age that people historically thought learning was on the decline.
Click here to listen to past episode of Training Tech Talk where we discuss this issus of responsive learning vs. responsive design
In this episode, Nancy and Allison talk about how you can learn to control your voice to convey the message mask how you really feel. For example in a sales situation when you’re not confident, you don’t always want the customer to know that. The challenge for us is that our vocal fold are tied directly to cells tied to our nervous system and emotions.
I’ve been talking about how important tonality and the quality of your voice is for the last three years. Scientists have documented proof that our voices are measured by listeners in milliseconds. Faster than it takes for you to blink your eyes, someone will judge the confidence in your voice.
In an article published by Forbes from David DiSalvo, he provides information on how our brains process a human voice. He also sites research done by Xiaoming Jiang and Marc Pell, on the way our brains process this information. These studies showed that if you are speaking more confidently, it’s less effort for your listener to decode what you are saying — it’s almost instantaneous but if you are speaking with less confidence, it requires more effort on the listener to understand you.
Think about people who have to engage in conversations for their job, sales people, doctors, insurance agents, teachers etc. I imagine that their days are very challenging and they feel like they are in a constant battle for gaining approval or respect if their voice works against them.
It’s easy to practice speaking to help you build your confidence and composure. We have developed a conversation simulator that will allow you to measure the composure and temperament in your voice. One thing I have noticed on a regular basis is when a client is conducting a role-play for practicing leaving a voice mail, they start off confident but as they get into the meat of the voice mail, their voice quickly declines in confidence and composure. Why is that? Another observation is some people have the opposite problem, they are too confident. This can be as much of a turn-off as not being confident.
So how do you get the right levels in your voice that will get you the results you want? Practice! Just like anything else in life practice will help you build confidence and composure. I remember when we first launched Mobi-RolePlay, a group of male colleagues asked if I could create a role-play that would allow a teen-age boy to ask a girl out on a date. I didn’t think they were serious but on further thought, it made a lot of sense. If we could practice speaking to people who make us nervous or when we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, do you think your outcomes would be different if you’d had the chance to practice them over and over again until you felt more confident?
I’d love to hear examples from you who may have done this or when you didn’t speak with confidence and how things may have changed if you had.
You can’t watch any reality competition show on TV these days without seeing at least one judge who has a British or UK based accent. I wonder if the reverse is true in other countries — are they hiring US based judges? Nope! I checked. So why is that? Well several reasons but here are a few:
• To elevate their company status
• To help connect with people on an intellectual level
• To give perceived refinement to a product or service
• To tap into the sentimentality of people of British heritage
• To differentiate themselves from standard North American branding
• To present listeners with subtle yet persuasive marketing
Years ago a company I worked for hired a new VP of Sales who had a British accent and it was clear he was selected and promoted in many of his positions because of his accent. Don’t get me wrong he wasn’t a bumbling idiot but I’m sure his career was more accelerated in the US simply because of his accent.
According to Bill Maher, Americans can’t say anything serious without using a British accent – here is a clip from his show giving examples
I’m thinking if I were to learn how to speak with a British Accent how would one go about this. Here are 5 steps:
- Start watching BBC or public television — they have lots of British Actors on there you might start picking up their accents while consuming this content
- Start wearing soccer (football) jerseys from UK based teams, you may attract tourist from there and practice having conversations with them
- Sing the song from My Fair Lady “The Rain in Spain” with a British accent like Julie Andrews or Audrey Hepburn. It’s a proven fact that if you have a speech problem sometimes singing helps cure you of this
- Start eating food from the UK like fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, tea and scones it will make you feel more British
- Hang pictures of the royal family in your home to feel as if you are in the UK — like the say “when in Rome” except you’ll pretend to be in the UK
Hope this helps maybe you’ll be selected to be the next judge on the next big reality talent show.