Beware These False Narratives



The call center industry is dominated by narratives espoused by experts in articles, convention presentations, and podcasts that greatly influence how our field views most everything related to training. Many are misguided. I will go through some here.

1) Conveying empathy and offering more personalized service adds to the length of calls and requires more physical and mental effort than not doing these things.

This is utterly false yet espoused by many experts as a foregone conclusion. It is based on the idea of adding phrases on top of what agents are already saying to get them to say things that sound more empathic and personalized.

The truth is empathy and personalized service are conveyed by choosing the correct words to say to replace the wrong words one was saying before, and it requires no difference in time or effort. It is about correcting what an agent is saying wrong in their approach that is impeding their ability to convey empathy and personalized service, not adding things on top of what they are saying wrongly.

2) Soft skills are great but not necessary, and some agents either have it or they do not. And because they are so ill-defined, there is no concrete set of rules that can create and maintain great soft skills, which are subjective in nature anyway. It is all just a big mess.

The truth is soft skills is a weak and diminutive term for what is actually customer service, meant to undermine its importance and maneuver it down priority lists because it is so challenging to manage. Meanwhile, it is the most important aspect of being a competent call center agent, the most important measure of call center quality, and by far the most important impactor of the patient or customer experience.

The rules of soft skills are clearly defined, and any agent can master them no matter their skill level. Executing consistently exceptional soft skills, also called personalized service, is simple and easy with proper guidance.

3) All QA is the same, and anyone with experience with call centers can put together a QA program. If there is any QA program in place, the results will be about the same no matter what.

The truth is the quality of QA varies wildly, just as much as the quality of restaurant food, general customer service, and anything else in life. If all QA were the same, all agent behavior in all call centers would be the same as well.

The role of QA is to dictate superior agent performance, but this has become a weakened dynamic whereby QA often has a more passive and limited role, with far lower demands and expectations. The truth is QA should be responsible for creating and maintaining truly exceptional agent performance, and anything less should be considered unacceptable.

4) Excellent tone is defined by enthusiasm and outward warmth.

The truth is call center agents come in a range of personalities, from extroverted and loud to introverted and quieter, and neither has an upper hand when it comes to offering likable tone. Desirable tone is best conveyed by an agent's word choice and manners, not their gregariousness. Many excellent agents come across as reserved and many of the worst are outgoing. Patients want sincere engagement and competence, not a cheerleader.

5) It is perfectly fine to rely on scripts.

100% of humans when asked how scripts sound will answer with one of the following: robotic, monotone, fake, impersonal, cold, insincere, or like they are reading. Perhaps okay for a word or two at the beginning of a call, scripts should be avoided and are unable to have any impact on 98% of a call. Scripts are ineffective as a base QA tool.

6) Agents must be tested often each month. The more the better, obviously.

This is the most off-base narrative in our field. The effectiveness of a training program is determined by its teaching curriculum and measurement parameters, and the number of tests is practically irrelevant.