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Smile to Success? Improving CX with call centre agent telephone triumph

2 Minute Read


My first job. Aged 15, the ‘Saturday Girl’-come-receptionist at my local Osteopath clinic. A nervous teenage girl, I remember the dread every time the phone rang. Who would be on the line? a complaining or awkward customer? How do I deal with them?...

Every call was a struggle until one day, I learnt a valuable piece of advice to improve CX that has stuck with me all these years. ‘Smile and Dial’ one of my colleagues suggested; ‘When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you’. Ever since, every phone call (much to the amusement of my colleagues) you will find me picking up the phone and smiling like a Cheshire cat!

Although I knew a smile would not automatically protect me from any disgruntled customers, it gave me an air of confidence in myself and an ability to provide a greater customer telephone experience from the get go. They say you can hear a smile in a voice, so what better way to start your customer contact and work towards improving CX…

Now standard advice during call centre agent training, I wonder if there is any real science behind this?

It seems so.

Back in 1980 John Ohala undertook some research for his paper “The Acoustic Origins of the Smile”.His key findings highlight that humans are more positively receptive to words spoken with a smile. Facial movement associated with smiling, results in higher-pitched vocal output which humans find more positive, warming and friendly.

Taking things one step further, a study at the University of Portsmouth (Drahota, 2008) identified that not only can people identify a smile in tone of voice but that they can even tell what kind of a smile you have just by a person’s voice.

So, in theory, smiling on the phone is great. However, Monday morning, 9am, pre-coffee…

How do we suggest you keep your call centre agents smiling?

  1. Happy workforce - What’s better than a real smile? Provide a great work environment, opportunities and incentives to ensure your staff are kept motivated and happy at work.
  2. Plenty of training - Training is key here, ensure your staff are confident so that they can provide a professional and positive customer service telephone experience.
  3. Competition - Nothing like a bit of competition to raise the bar… try encouraging that smile - ‘Smiler of the Week’ or some way of rewarding employees who proactively practice the ‘Smile and Dial’ attitude.
  4. Reporting and Feedback - Proof is in the pudding; if you see and believe in the positive impact smiling can have on customer experience, prove it to your employees with a quantitative value e.g. complaints resolved or sales completed.
  5. Little reminders – Post-its or on-screen reminders for employees are a simple way to encourage perseverance.

You can always call us to hear what a smile sounds like… ‘Smile and Dial’ really works and it’s here to stay… so keep smiling!

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Emma Lister

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