In previous posts I talked about the preparation time that a customer has in advance of calling your business when they have a question or an issue. I also talked about the fact that a lot of the interaction is lost when you lose the face to face and body language aspect of the communication. In this post I’ll talk a little about what you can do to get across what is missing by changing minor things about how you handle yourself and small physical changes you can make to ensure that you’re customer or client ‘hears’ the smile on your face or the concentration that you are giving them. First and foremost, it’s always wise to get your body to think that calls are important.
Sit up straight!! And I emphasize that. And that’s something that people disagree with me time and time again; and yet, when I actually get them to sit up straight, they notice the difference themselves. Sitting up straight in your chair makes a massive difference to your tone of voice. For many reasons. First and foremost, let’s look at it from a breathing perspective. If anyone has ever done any drama, or any theatre, or any acting; you’ll know that, in order to articulate what you’re saying, you need to have enough air in your lungs. You need to be standing in such a way that the air can flow freely. I remember distinctly that the beginning of the Speech and drama handbook has a paragraph that explains this in detail and goes on to describe how the diaphragm and the lungs should be compressed and decompressed and placed in order to get different types of sounds and different qualities of sounds across.
If we’re sitting at our chair hunched over, we’re actually compressing our lungs, we’re compressing our diaphragm, we’re compressing our whole body and we have to take more breathes and more deep breathing breaths in order to get across things. To demonstrate, if I was to sit hunched over, my voice will change and become a little bit lower and it becomes very breathy and shallow, and I have to spend more time getting more air in to articulate things. If I want to come across clearly, it’s quite difficult to do. So as a result, by sitting up straight, at an almost 90 degree angle, the lungs aren’t compressed, the diaphragm isn’t compressed, I can take in the air that I need, I can articulate correctly, I can push the air out correctly and I can come across quite clearly and quite naturally.
One of the other things about sitting up is that mentally it makes a large difference as well. If you’ve every been in those situations where you’ve had a very long day in work and you’ve come home, and you’ve thrown the bag down and you’ve kicked off your shoes and you’ve thrown yourself into the back of the sofa or the armchair; the natural reaction of the body is to let out this nice big sigh of relaxation “haaaaa” (imagine the sound, we’ve all done it.) In actual fact, we may not always be conscious that we’re doing this, it may happen subconsciously or it may happen organically, that we don’t realize that it’s happening. The reason for this is, the mind is constantly eavesdropping on every part of your body and making adjustments as a result. What this means is if you’re sitting slouched in your chair, or leaning back, or kind of slumped down as if you had one of those long days in work, your brain looks at your body and sees, “this is my relaxation pose, this is my the day is over, I am done with all my work pose” and may actually affect the voice as a result. It may turn the voice into almost that “oh, I don’t care anymore” type of voice.
This to the person on the other end comes across as the type of voice that seems that little bit more laid back, or not interested in what they are saying. This can provide a big challenge because, if a client hears this, and perceives this, they may think that we don’t care, or that we’ve already had a long day and we’re sick of customers calling up and we don’t want to deal with this issue. It’s an important factor to remember and the more we keep ourselves physically in a state of readiness, of preparedness and alertness, the easier it is for our brain and therefore our voice to come across as that as well.
So, now that we’re sitting up straight, the air should be travelling freely, we should be able to articulate quite well, we’re not overly relaxed sitting in the chair so our brain is aware that we’re alert and we’re working; this should come across in the voice as well.
What else can we do to affect the tone of voice at the beginning of a call?
Smile. Everyone laughs when I say this, particularly when I stand up in front of a group of trainees or say it to a business owner or manager. Picture it and me standing there saying “before you take your first call, stop and smile”. Is this an easy thing to do all day every day? No, it’s not, it’s quite a difficult thing to do and the temptation sometimes is, if you’ve had a bad call, or a bad experience, to be a little bit down-hearten, to be a little bit less enthusiastic about the next call that’s about to come up. It’s very important that we maintain this smile. Everyone probably is aware of a time when they’ve been on the phone to a family member, friend or whatever else, and they could tell when that person was smiling. For whatever reason, your tone of voice is affected by you smiling.
Now obviously, you don’t want to put on a fake, gritting your teeth kind of smiling through “yes sir, of course sir…” because this will come across as false and again customers can perceive this as well. We want to have a very natural, very easy-going smile, without it being overly ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. We want a nice, casual, relaxed, welcoming smile on our faces. This does a lot of things. First and foremost it does affect our tone of voice. People can always tell when you’re smiling over the phone. Not only that though, if you smile, again your brain is eavesdropping, sees you smiling and thinks, ‘well, I must be a little more happy than I thought’, or ‘I must be happy’, or ‘quite contented at the moment’. And our brain may relax a little bit or may feel that little bit more enthusiastic or that little bit happier. And again, this in turn will build and come across on the call.