Signposting on the Phone

Signpost at the Beginning of the Call

This month I’ve been doing tons of coaching with call centre people who take calls from the public about their insurance policies.

Some of the callers are really good and some not so, naturally.  They all vary in their skills.  But one thing that the good ones all do is signpost the beginning of the call.

The importance of signposting whether you are phoning out on a sales call or taking incoming calls, hit me when I got to listen to one call handled by a particularly sound call handler.  The customer had experienced a major calamity.  A water pipe had burst and completely flooded her front room.  Now this lady carefully explained that she had never before claimed on her insurance and had no idea what to expect.

She was very apprehensive.

So immediately my call handling friend began to signpost her to relax her and to ensure she knew what was going to happen next on the phone.

The lady was told that the call would probably last about 8 minutes, and they could both complete the claim form over the telephone with little fuss. There was no need for paper, as my friend would complete the form on the computer so there would be quite a few questions.  Was she sitting comfortably?

Sometimes we assume the customer knows exactly what will happen on the call because we’ve dealt with hundreds if not thousands.  But this was the customer’s first call and the signposting helped relax her and sort out her claim.

Never assume.

Signposting through Silences

A good friend of mine has a terrific voice so good in fact that we call him Golden Tonsils.  He often gets work from TV companies and theatre companies to do voice over work or he gets to narrate plays.

Now his work is directly connected to handling people on the telephone.

Let me explain further.

When you’re talking face to face with someone, we can cope with the odd silent moment.  Its obvious when someone looks away to think about what we’ve just been talking about, or looks down to complete a section on a form, or just takes notes as we talk.

On the phone, however, silent moments, are just …silent and devoid of all human interaction.

Good phone handlers use the signposting technique to explain why the silent moment has occurred or use it to pre-warn when a silent moment will happen during the call.

“It may go quiet for a little bit as I need to complete the details section of the page, I won’t keep you too long”

In fact good call handlers almost narrate the phone call as it occurs, letting the customer know exactly what’s happening at each step of the way.

Just like my friend with the golden tonsils.

Podcast Version