What Is Your Phone Perspective?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I have never done outbound calling, and it would be a bad idea for me to try. I have done inbound work. Inbound is a good match for me; outbound is not. As such, I tend to assume others share my reticence towards outbound calling.

Once I projected this viewpoint when fielding a sales call. The agent surprised me with her response. “I like making calls!” she enthused. “I enjoy the challenge of working towards my goal.” She had a positive phone perspective.

Inbound versus Outbound: As we know, outbound and inbound calling are different tasks, requiring contrasting skills and tapping dissimilar personalities. Few people can master both, and fewer still can successfully switch back and forth. Matching the right person to the right type of calling is essential.

Inbound work is reactive. Inbound agents wait for calls. When the phone rings, the callers want to talk to them. The agents’ job is to help callers: providing the information they need or fulfilling their request. Thanks for the agents’ work is often communicated at the conclusion of the call. True, there can be rough calls, but these are the exception. Most inbound agents enjoy helping the people who call and solving their problems.

Outbound work is proactive. Outbound agents make calls, be it manually or at the pace of an automated dialer. While some cultures are open to receiving calls, many of those being called resent the interruption in the United States. The agents crank through calls in order to connect with a party who is willing to listen, working towards the goal of making a sale, setting an appointment, or obtaining needed information.

Between each success is a raft of rejections and rebuffs; outbound is hard work, especially for the thin-skinned, and kudos are infrequently offered. Sure, there is the occasional individual who truly appreciates being called, thanking the agent for doing so, but this is not typical. Most outbound agents are motivated by the financial rewards and recognition of reaching their goals and meeting objectives. This enables them to persist in their work, even if they do not particularly care for the actual task of making calls.

Watch Your Attitude: Another consideration for call center agents is attitude. Having the right attitude helps provide lower agent turnover, produce job satisfaction, and promote success. Once, while consulting at an inbound healthcare call center, I met individually with each agent. They worked in the same call center and had the same manager, but all the agents had different attitudes towards their jobs. Two, in particular, possessed diametrically opposite perspectives.

The first gushed, “This is the most interesting and exciting place to work. Every call is different, and I just love the variety.”

Her coworker possessed a much different outlook. “This is so boring,” she complained. “I just do the same thing all day long.”

The first enjoyed her work, seeing infinite variety among the seeming routine. Her enthusiasm was apparent and her outlook was positive. Her coworker was able to only see the mundane, missing the endless variations of a theme. Her demeanor was distressing, for her and everyone else around her.

The issue of attitude equally applies to outbound calling. Agents who see each call as a challenge, moving them one step closer to their goal, can purposefully work through those calls to obtain their reward. Conversely, agents who make each call with resigned drudgery will not be in the right frame of mind when they do reach someone willing to take their call.

If you work in a call center, what is your phone perspective? Having the right one makes all the difference.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the October/November 2012 issue of AnswerStat magazine]