Human beings developed the capacity to communicate with words over 60,000 years ago, however we have used our non-verbal skills including voice, facial expressions, and gestures to communicate for much longer.
As a result, despite our breadth of vocabulary today, the hallmarks of a strong conversation are characterized by our ability to detect, interpret and respond to non-verbal cues like a change in tone, an arched eyebrow, a smile, or laughter.
The ability to have good conversations is a skill that is important in all walks of life. In particular, this skill is truly essential for sales and service professionals who work in contact centers. From day one, these agents are quickly confronted with the challenges of executing effective conversations with numerous unique individuals. Challenges include handling up to 70 calls per day, many of which are emotionally charged, all while striving to deliver consistently good service.
Agents must navigate conversations in a manner that demonstrates confidence and leaves the impression of a capable and competent service provider.
Specific conversational habits that encourage positive customer experiences are usually portrayed via non-verbal expressions. Responding to questions and comments promptly, projecting an energetic tone, and matching the pace of the other party, can all demonstrate interest and engagement in a conversation.
Cogito has analyzed data from millions of phone conversations and uncovered a clear relationship between speaking behavior and the outcome of a conversation. The following four non-verbal conversational behaviors can help build trust between customers and contact center agents, improving efficiency, reducing effort and enhancing the quality of the customer experience.
Four Behaviors that Drive Great Conversations
I. Engage in the Conversation
Think about your tone during the conversation. Your tone often indicates how much energy you are putting into the conversation. This can be measured via the emphasis on words or phrases. When describing low energy in someone’s voice, adjectives such as calm or even apathetic could be applied. Conversely, instances of high energy could be considered excited or irritable.
In sales and service environments, engaging the customer with your vocal energy will help drive a positive outcome and encourage the customer to engage in turn.
II. Mind the Gap
Think about your last call, did you notice gaps in the conversation when neither of you were speaking? Did you get the feeling that perhaps you both were multi-tasking and not giving the conversation the attention it deserved? Such gaps in conversation can leave the impression that you are figuratively (or literally) not present.
Avoid long gaps in conversation by reminding yourself to check in and make sure the other person is still on the line. Even if the situation requires research or distraction, be sure to inform the other party you are still engaged.
III. Take Turns
Similar to gaps in conversation, delayed response usually occurs when you’re asked a question, but it takes some time to provide a response. The customer may interpret a slow response to mean that the you are uncertain, distracted and potentially lack competence.
When asked something you don’t immediately know the answer to, there’s nothing wrong with asking for time to consult with a colleague.
IV. Tailor Your Style
How quickly, or conversely, how slowly we speak may also influence perceptions of confidence. Speaking pace communicates information about us, as well as how we think about the other person in the conversation. Someone speaking too slowly may appear unsure of themselves, or as though the conversation does not have their full attention.
Mimicry refers to the practice of listening to your customer’s pace and tone, and matching when appropriate. The opposite can be practice when a customer calls in angry and loud, de-escalate moments of tension by adopting a soothing tone, softer voice, and potentially slower pace.
These non-verbal skills represent conversational habits an agent can benefit from while on the job. Agents may find it challenging to practice these skills in the midst of of a conversation, as they can become fatigued by handling numerous calls or distracted by navigating their systems. That’s where solutions featuring Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help. Leveraging AI to augment emotional intelligence will help agents communicate in a professional and empathetic manner. Consistently demonstrating good conversational behavior will result in happier higher performing employees and more satisfied customers.