Educating the Next Generation
By Tim Searcy, American Teleservices Association
Like many of you, I spent time over the Thanksgiving holiday “at home.” Home for me is Lincoln, Nebraska. While I was in town, my nephew Sean informed me that he was going to be joining the ranks of teleservices professionals. He had recently been hired by one of our member companies (without my assistance), and he was going to begin selling credit cards by phone. I was thrilled!
Sean is a member of my family through my wife’s side. For years I have been a source of incredible confusion for my relatives. My in-laws could not understand how anyone could choose to be in this business. The fact that a second member of la famiglia would select this profession was bewildering to them. Despite a lack of support, I pulled Sean aside to pass along some lessons about our business. I’ll share them with you.
- Pay attention during training! Comp-anies spend millions of dollars cumulatively to create effective training. This training is designed to help the call center representative to be an effective conduit of information. If Sean pays attention during training, his success is not assured, but the probability of high performance improves. Good training exists in most firms and encompasses lifelong skills on communication, overcoming objections, vocal expression, etc.
- Avoid the stupid mistakes! Be a great employee. “Show up on time, do what you’re told, be cheerful and make a difference,” I told Sean. I know this isn’t brilliant advice, but in reality, we have a problem in our country. In many walks of life, employers have found the next generation lacks responsibility, a positive attitude and an interest in making a difference. If Sean commits to what he does each and every time, he will be perceived as an asset even if it is only by comparison.
- Follow the script! One of the worst things a call center rep can do is shortcut what he or she has been taught. These misguided attempts to save time and effort remind me of the proverbial Road to Hell: the shortcut path is also paved with good intentions. Often, problems arise on the calling room floor as reps under pressure to perform start to become script authors. In an effort to boost performance, representatives start to share “best practices” with one another. These practices usually become increased material changes to the script. As I told Sean, not only is this against his new company’s policy, but it will be easily detected and stopped through the loss of his job.
- They can’t see you! Sean is no different than almost anyone else, which means that he does not want to be embarrassed. Good outbound telemarketing involves a more energetic use of voice, facial expressions and often body language. Sean did not think that this kind of emotive behavior would look very cool. My point is that if the person on the other end of the phone does not know you and cannot see you. . . then who cares?
- It IS personal! Making phone calls is difficult. Sean is going to face a lot of rejection. The nonsensical beliefs that we can convince ourselves that this is a game, and that representatives should not take some of this personally, is naive. If a representative does not take his or her job personally on the negative side, it will be difficult to create a sense of enthusiasm for the positive side of the job. Managing the stress is important, but ignoring the stress is foolish.
- Be unusual . . . listen to your manager! Much like my advice about stupid mistakes, this doesn’t take a genius to figure out. However, listening to good coaching will make Sean more popular, make him more money, and make him better at what he does.
- Get into management training! No other industry does as good a job promoting from within than teleservices. The road from the calling room to the board room is fairly straight. It’s not easy, but making teleservices a career puts destiny in Sean’s hands. “Promotion through performance” is not always a perfect approach, but I have rarely seen failure as the cause for promotion. (Cynics need not heed number 7.)
Sean is seventeen years old; soon to graduate; a skateboarding junkie; and an otherwise normal kid. So, as expected, he rolled his eyes at me and pretended to pay attention. But over a few minutes, it started to make sense to him and I could feel that a kernel of what I might call wisdom was transferred. One down . . . millions to go.
Until next time, I am on the line.
The American Teleservices Association
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