The Critical Importance of Voice Tone

By Desirae Haynes, Phone Pro Trainer

Imagine perusing the Sunday paper for job opportunities and running across this ad:

“Seeking call center professional that is tired, bored, unenthusiastic, apathetic and conveys an overall disinterest during the greater part of the day.”

It is unlikely that you would open the classifieds and see this type of want ad, yet you will often experience this type of person in a professional setting. Whether it’s in a customer service situation, with a fellow co-worker or perhaps you have even caught yourself with these characteristics on occasion.

We have all heard the old adage ‘You are what you eat’; well let’s take it one step further and consider this…You are what you think! Travel to any bookstore or library and you will discover a plethora of books on the power of positive thinking and how our thoughts, be they negative or positive, contribute to our behavior. Part of that behavior is Voice Tone. It goes without saying that using a negative voice tone with a customer is a major no-no. There aren’t many managers that are going to tolerate or excuse an employee that consistently yells, attacks or demonstrates an aggressive or frustrated voice tone with a customer. Yet there does seem to be a level of tolerance and acceptance when it comes to a neutral voice tone. That is not to say that management encourages a neutral voice tone; certainly a positive voice tone is the preferred and desirable choice just like the negative voice tone is the wrong and unacceptable choice. Besides, maintaining a positive voice tone, call after call, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year is asking an awful lot of someone – isn’t it?

Anyway, what’s so bad about a Neutral voice tone? It just means they aren’t positive..…right? When neutral is used as an adjective to describe a color, as in one that is able to blend with many; or as a means to describe one’s position as it relates to refraining from interference in a contest by not taking part in either side, then the word neutral poses no problem. But when it comes to describing a tone of voice, then NEUTRAL actually becomes a NEGATIVE.

According to a recent study conducted by AMDOCS (see for additional information) 80% of today’s consumers would rather go to the dentist, sit in a traffic jam or pay their taxes rather than deal with an UNhelpful customer service rep. The “unhelpful” rep might be one that is:

· Bored—you are the 51st caller they have had today and they have heard your issue before.

· Tired—it has been a long day and their shift ends in 55 minutes.

· Indifferent—you think you have got problems, this is nothing compared to the last guy they just talked to.

· Detached—yeah, yeah, whatever…you are the 17th person today alone that has called in with this concern.

· Unenthusiastic—they only have 2 more months on the phones and then they can ‘post out’ and get promoted to another department within the company.

The above are all characteristics of the unhelpful rep and obviously the list could go on and on and even though in these instances the voice tone could borderline on negative, the reality and the danger is that when one of these characteristics dominates the moment, the likely voice tone for the moment is going to be neutral. So in today’s competitive market place is that an acceptable and tolerable tone for the moment? I guess it depends on who you ask; according to recent surveys, the customer considers it neither tolerable nor acceptable.

Thus, when these moments/characteristics present themselves, it is time for the rep to change the thought cycle. Going back to the principles centered around the power of positive thinking and if we really are what we think; then changing our behavior is really as simple as our changing thoughts. We can choose to remain in a negative and/or destructive thought pattern or we can choose to change and begin to introduce positive thoughts. Therein lies the positive behavior which opens the door to positive voice tone. Is it an easy choice to make? Not always…but in today’s competitive market place it is the only acceptable choice to make.

“Seeking call center professional who is energetic, creative, enthusiastic, and is consistently able to convey a desire and willingness to help our customers.”

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Phone Pro provides telephone skills training workshops and seminars focusing on customer service, coaching, and sales-related service provided over the telephone. These articles are provided as a resource to education our clients and the industry as a whole. For more information on how we can assist your company, please contact us >>

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