Call Center Training Solutions

Call Center Training Solutions Blog

Posts Tagged ‘better telephone dialogues’

How to Connect and Stay Connected ± Lesson Three

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Client Engagement Series – Lesson Three: Client-Engagement through Great Conversational Skills

This is the third post in our four-part series, Client Engagement: How to Connect and Stay Connected.  In this post we will discuss how to engage your clients with better Conversational Skills.  Having a conversation is something we do naturally all day long.  When we try it on the phones, however, we must mimic the elements that make a great conversation, rather than try to have a pure, genuine conversation.  Why?  Because a true conversation will rarely go in the direction we are hoping it will go.  Conversations do not typically have a planned outcome.

About twice a year, one of our potential clients will start a dialogue with us like the following one.   I­m not really trying to turn my agents into «sales people­.  I really just want them to have a conversation with the client.  Out of that conversation, the client­s needs, issues and hot buttons will come out ± naturally ± not forced.  Although this client is well intended and the request seems pretty reasonable, we believe it is not possible to achieve.  Conversations go wherever they go.  Any conversation that needs to go in a specific direction by the end is not really a conversation.  To some degree, it is contrived and planned.  Although we agree with the spirit of the client­s request, we definitely do not want agents to have a true conversation.  Call handle times will double and sales will go down.  Client Engagement would initially be strong, but each client will quickly see that the conversation is taking more time than planned.  They will start asking when this is going to end and why it is taking so long.

We believe that what our call center client is looking would be better described as highly-trained agents who can simulate a conversation, one that goes exactly where the agent expects and is controlled by the agent, regardless of who is talking at the time and gives the agent the greatest chance for a sale.  All the while, the client on the phone must believe that he/she is in a true conversation.  That is definitely achievable and it will produce the highest possible number of sales, while additionally improving our Client Engagement.  Clients like to be in these types of dialogues because they are typically brief, enjoyable and client-focused.  In order to simulate a genuine conversation, we need to add a few skills into our typical sales dialogue.

In addition to asking better questions (see the second post in this series), we recommend adding the following three elements to your sales dialogues.

1) Chat Comments

A real conversation includes more than just questions from one person and answers from the other.  If you listen to a few conversations, all of them will include Chat Comments.  Chat Comments are those additional comments made by one person after the other person answers a question.  In our case, the sales agent uses Chat Comments to break up the questions he/she is asking.

  • Agent:  Mary, approximately how much do you plan to spend on this product? 
  • Client:  Oh, no more than about $100.00.  I really don­t even have the budget for that, but I know we must do something quick. 
  • Agent (Chat Comment):  I know what you mean.  A lot of the clients I speak with these days are really trying to stay within a tight budget.  We have two different products I can tell you about that are both under $100.00.

A Chat Comment does several positive things for the dialogue.  It breaks up the question-answer cycle that will quickly start to sound like an interrogation.  It also helps the sales agent relate to the client and put the client at ease (in this case, the agent relates the client­s situation to other clients who have similar budget challenges).  Finally, it gives the agent the chance to make quick statements about his/her product that will build credibility. 

A Chat Comment is one of the easiest ways to improve a structured dialogue and make it sound much more like a real conversation.  In a real conversation, clients will remain much more engaged.

2) Positioning Statements

A Positioning Statement provides the customer with the  Why? behind the question.  Many questions seem almost too invasive when they are asked out of context.   What do you pay right now for this service?  Do I really want to answer this agent?  Why does she need to know that?  Often the client will say,  I really don­t want to talk about that, or will explain that the bills are paid by someone else.

A Positioning Statement is very conversational and a great tool in preventing clients from getting defensive about our questions.  Here are three examples.

  •  Mrs. Jacobs, it really helps me to stay within a client­s budget when I know their pricing expectations, so let me ask you–?
  •  When I know more about my client­s current circumstances, I can build a much better bundle for them, so I­m curious–?
  •  We always like to make sure we solve all of our clients­ issues when they purchase our products, so it would help me to know–?

When a client knows why you are asking for something, they rarely have a problem with it.  This is a great conversational element that is easy to use and extremely valuable.  It will also increase your Client Engagement in every dialogue.

3) Similar Situations

Asking a customer to comment on other clients­ typical situations is another  great conversational tool that can bring out some very useful data about this client.

When clients are considering buying a product from us, it is usually to replace something that no longer works well for them (e.g. an older laptop that is slow, a worn-out sewing machine, a vacuum that has no power left).  If the agent asks the client,  What is your current product like? ± even with a Positioning Statement ± many will become defensive.  Sharing a Similar Situation first often overcomes the client­s hesitation.  Share an issue you know other clients are having with their current product, and then ask the client,  What­s been your experience?  Here is an example.

 A lot of the clients I speak with tell me their current computer tends to really slow down on them, especially when they open more than one program at the same time.  What­s been your experience with that?

By letting them know that these issues are common among customers, many more will open up and admit that they experience the same things.  Once they do, you have your opportunity to stress how much better your product will be.  

One caution when using Similar Situations.  During your Similar Situation, never mention a specific company, like Delta, HP, Bank of America, etc.  Clients will often become even more defensive when you do.   I hear that a lot of the Dell computers tend to–.  It is never smart to bash your competitors.  Stay focused on the issue and leave the competitor out of the statement.  If the client complains about a specific company, thank them for the information, but we still do not recommend saying,  I hear that a lot about them.

Try These Conversational Elements Today

Because we all use these elements away from the phones, they will be easy to start using on your sales calls.  We recommend starting with Chat Comments and then moving into the other two from there.  Within a week, you should master all three of them.  Practice makes perfect and the good news is that very little practice will be needed.

Once you develop these skills, you will find that your clients stay more relaxed and open up more.  Client Engagement will be easier to achieve and maintain and your sales should go up as a result.