Companies are finding that people in Call Centers are not well equipped to work in Save Centers.

Save Centers help retain customers who are ticked off and want to cancel their contracts and get their money back. To staff up these Save Centers, companies tend to look for high-performing agents from traditional Call Centers.

Surprisingly, however, these employees tend to under-perform in their new role, mainly because of poor listening skills.

Companies think the problem could be that these regular call center agents are accustomed to using scripts. That is, to  engage with a customer they read from a script,  but then, while the customer is explaining her point of view, the agent is not really listening.

In a study done by McKinsey, one telecom save desk hired candidates with superior listening skills. It found that within three months these agents had save rates two-to-three times higher than those of more experienced people in the regular call centers.

Now let’s look at suicide hotlines.  People who run suicide hotlines report that there are two kinds of volunteers who want to help.

1. Those who have been touched by suicide

2. Successful people who want to give back

The latter type are a disaster because they can’t help jumping in and trying to make the distraught person feel better by sprinkling sunshine and unicorns on him.  The instinct to problem solve can be devastatingly wrong.

The average suicide call lasts 20 minutes, but only if you listen the first ten, which is an excruciating amount of time.

It is tempting to consider the possibilities of extending this lesson to a broader range of communication activities, including sales, coaching, consulting skills, managing difficult conversations, and leadership training too.

Listening is persuasive because it:

  • makes the other person feel respected and understood
  • helps the listener understand the feelings and perceptions of the other party
  • enables the listener to ask better questions
  • which helps the listener to understand how to relate to the other party

But let’s recognize what’s really going on.  At bottom, the Principle of Reciprocity is what governs the power of listening.  And the Principle of Reciprocity is based on the fact that human beings are hard-wired to give back to those who have given to them.  And perhaps the greatest gift we can give one another is the gift of our attention, a gift we give primarily by listening.

Let’s remember that the first rule of public speaking is to know the audience.  In order to do that , we must set aside our assumptions about the audience, and take the time to ask them questions and listen before we shape our content.

Interview at least three people, and don’t assume anything, because once we’ve  assumed, our curiosity comes to a complete stop.

The second rule of public speaking (and presenting) is to speak to the audience, in the language of the audience, about what is most important to the audience.

And the only way to do that is to listen to the audience, listen to the language they use, and listen to what is most important to them.

Be a better listener.  Listen without judgment, with endless curiosity.  You’ll be a better speaker and get better results because you your speech will be more listener-centric.

 

 

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For more tips, hints, and advice, visit my column Words@Work at Inc.com.