Good call control – guiding the customer

If you’re in a call centre setup, or maybe some other kind of service or helpdesk scenario, then you know all too well the perils of the over-talkative caller. Add to that the fact that most callers have a specific problem (or at least think they do) and are looking for a definite solution and not just information and you have a productivity challenge on your hands.

The impact of insufficient call control can be significant:

  • More time per call
  • Less calls dealt with
  • Longer waiting times for other callers
  • More pressure on colleagues
  • Negative impact on the bottom line.

And ultimately, mishandling the call risks poor feedback and/or a reputation regarding how you treat your customers (nobody said it was fair!)

What’s the problem?

A number of caller behaviours or other factors can mean a call runs on longer than it should:

  • The caller is emotional.
  • The caller is confused.
  • The caller is angry or frustrated and is taking it out on you.
  • The caller doesn’t have all the necessary information to hand.
  • The caller insists on giving you too much (and unnecessary) information.
  • The caller lives alone and just wants a chat (yes, this is facetious but not entirely).

Call control tips

Faced with scenarios like these, good call control boils down to getting the information you need quickly and efficiently, then either finding and agreeing a solution, or at least progressing the situation in some way (e.g. referring it to the person/department that has the solution). Try some of the following…

  1. Use your questions – Often in conversation or interview situations, open questions are recommended because they tend to result in the maximum return of information (by asking, How, Why, When, Where, Who, and What). However, here you need a more judicious balance of information-gathering open questions and directive closed questions; i.e. use questions that only have yes/no answers to establish the limits of the caller’s situation and to gather the specific pieces of information that you need to deal with their call.
  2. Acknowledge and redirect – If the caller is off topic (e.g. mentioning the weather, their bad back, etc.) then show you’ve heard (“Sorry to hear that…”) and then point them towards a more relevant subject (e.g. “How can I help you with your account today?”)
  3. Listen closely – Good listening skills are essential for any kind of customer service but here you need to be able to sift what you’re hearing… which details are important and relevant to the customer’s situation? Then focus on those.
  4. Communicate clearly – The more complex the situation, the more likely the customer is to have missed or misunderstood something. When summarising the options or suggesting a solution, you need to be crystal-clear in your explanations. Any gap in the customer’s understanding increases the chances that they’ll end up calling again about the same situation.
  5. Mind your tone – The lengthier the call, the more complex the situation, the more confused/emotional the customer, the more your patience is likely to be tried. That’s natural. But if that’s communicated (e.g. through a slightly testy tone of voice, or any kind of impatience on your part) you’re setting the conversation back, possibly to zero.
  6. Avoid jargon – Obvious point perhaps but use language and words that the customer understands; doing otherwise is just one more (self-generated) obstacle between you and a solution.
  7. Friendly but professional – Be friendly and approachable but remember you’re not their friend. You’re not there to chat, you’re there to help.

In principle, good call control is simple: pay attention, guide the caller, stay calm, professional and courteous, remain focused on helping them find a solution. Of course, saying and doing are two different things and simple isn’t always easy. However, when you can do it, the calls get easier, are dealt with more rapidly, and stress and pressure are minimised.


If you’d like to explore the topic of call control in greater detail, including how you can practice and improve your skills with expert guidance, give us a call on 01582 463464, we’re here to help.

Categories: Customer service

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