How to Politely Control Calls with the Chatty Cathy

Angry Woman speaking phone

As you might know, one of the things I teach is how to control calls with customers. Precisely, how to deliver a warm customer experience while politely getting the long-winded customer to cut to the chase.

It just so happens I was on a call this morning with a chatty-Cathy. She was such a dear, and I honestly enjoyed talking with her. But I had another conference call scheduled to start in 7 minutes.

I teach call control. Now I needed to control a phone call. I saw this situation as a mini-test if you will. A test to help me keep my skills fresh.

So I used my favorite call control strategy:

Ask 3 closed-ended questions back-to-back.

When customers are long-winded, rambling or storytelling, they are likely stuck on the right side of the brain. The right side of the brain tends to use more of our creative, fantasy and philosophical sides, whereas the left side of the brain focuses more on facts, numbers and analytical thinking.

CallControl

As long as the customer is communicating from the right side of the brain, it will be difficult for you to control the call. You need to efficiently shift your customer from the right side of the brain to the left side of the brain.

An easy and very efficient way to help your customer make this shift is for you to ask your customer 3 closed-ended questions back to back.

Closed-ended questions are questions that can be answered in one word:

“Do you like pizza?” is a closed-ended question.

“What is your favorite kind of food?” is an open-ended question.

Closed-ended questions work because customers are limited to one word (or perhaps a series of numbers.) Asking closed-ended questions will give you some immediate control over the phone call, but to maintain that power, you must ask closed-ended questions that require your customer to go to the left brain to retrieve the answer.

That is, you need to ask questions that require your customer to use analytical thinking, to recall, or to look up something.

Here’s an example.

When I worked in the car rental industry, I had my staff launch three strategic closed-ended questions the moment they felt they were dealing with a long-winded caller. These are the questions my employees asked.

  1. What is your rental agreement number?
  2. Can you read me the location code located in the top right-hand corner of your agreement?
  3. Can you give me the exact dates of rental?

These questions never failed to get the long-winded caller to stop talking. They never failed because the questions are all closed-ended, relevant to helping the customer, and they all require the customer to use the left-brain to retrieve the answers.

  • Closed-ended questions can be answered in one word
  • Closed-ended questions put you in control
  • Closed-ended questions move the customer from the right brain to the left brain
  • Closed-ended questions keep your customers from rambling

When you are caught on a long call with a storyteller or rambler, ask 3-closed-ended questions back to back. Make sure the questions are closed-ended (answered in one word or series of numbers), relevant to helping the customer, and require the customer to use the left-brain. When you do, you’ll instantly be back in control of your phone calls.

In this video I discuss the Ask 3 Closed-Ended Questions Back to Back Technique. Share this video with your employees for a quick training on call control.

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches, and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

7 Soft Skills to Transform Your Customer Experience Over the Telephone

This is the 7-point call strategy I use when my work is to improve the telephone customer experience in a call center.

The lead-in, step 1, gets calls started on a positive note. Steps 2-6 are how to handle the body of the call in a friendly and warm way. The final step, end with a fond farewell, ensures you end calls positively.

If these 7 steps help you in any way, well that makes my day. –Myra

indian call center representative

1. Open with a lead-in

“Good morning. Customer Care. This is Penny. How may I help you today?” (with a 🙂 in your voice)

 

2. Convey empathy and/or acknowledge emotions when appropriate

  • “I can understand how frustrating it is when your rental car breaks down.”
  • “I realize how complicated it is to …..”
  • “I cannot imagine how upsetting it is to …..”
  • “I know how confusing it must be when …..”

Short video on how to acknowledge a customer’s emotion:

 

3. Yield to Callers (Don’t interrupt or over talk customers)

  • Allow customers to finish sentences
  • If you accidentally interrupt a caller, apologize
  • Even when you know within a second or two that the call will need to be transferred, allow the caller to finish their statement before making the transfer

 

4. Bridge into questioning

  • “In order to determine what happened, I will need to ask you some questions.”
  • “Do you mind if I ask you some questions so we can figure out what has happened?”
  • “So I can assist you, may I ask you a few questions?”

5. Speak in complete sentences

Be friendly and conversational and always use a complete sentence:

  • “May I have your zip code please?” –  Not: “Zip code?”
  • “Can I get your last name?” – Not: “Name?”

 

6.  Ask “Is there anything else?”

  • “Ms. Williams, may I help you with anything else?”
  • “May I help you with anything else, Mr. Smith?”
  • “Do you have any additional questions, Mrs. Jones?”
  • “Is there anything else I can help you with today, Mr. Davis?”
  • “Ms. Brown, how else may I help you today?”

7.  End with a fond farewell (include some form of thanks)

  • “Thanks so much for calling us today Julie.”
  • “I enjoyed talking with you, Teresita. I hope you enjoy your new duffle bag.”
  • “Well, if there’s nothing else, all that’s left is for me to wish you a great afternoon! Thank you for calling us today Tammy.” 

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