Calling In Friendship

A telephone lifeline in Staffordshire is calling for more volunteers who could spend a few hours chatting to the elderly and housebound on the phone. “ Staff” (Staffordshire Telephone and Friendship Facilitators) has been operating for more than a year and has already had some notable successes.

The idea behind “Staff” is simple. Vicky Smith the “Staff” co-ordinator told the Staffordshire Newsletter that the project promises that “on the agreed day, at the agreed time, make a cup of tea, sit back and we will call you.” Simply by chatting about everything from the TV to sport and the weather the callers help to lift the spirits of the housebound.

 As calls progress, friendships develop and callers can also make sure that those in need are taking full advantage of any help to which they are entitled. In effect a simple phone call on a regular basis can help to transform the quality of lives. One of the reasons why this project may be so successful is that it makes use of the fact that most of us like to sit down and have a natter on the phone. Or at least we do when family and friends are concerned. When it comes to purely work calls we can view the phone in another light altogether.

How many of us happily commute to work whilst chatting on the phone and yet the second we are in work we view phone calls as a nuisance? Sometimes we’d do anything to avoid answering the phone as it interrupts our train of thought or heralds another work item to add to the pile. And yet if we thought of callers not as nuisances but as friends, how differently would we treat them? 

A friendly voice on the other end of the phone speaks volumes about the culture and ethos of a company. A well handled call can result in a satisfied client and repeat business; a poorly handled call will result in bad publicity on social media sites and in the press. Witness the Welsh speaker who was told by a BT Indian call centre recently that they had never heard of Wales! 

Taking time to train staff in call handling techniques is time well spent by any organisation. But to truly provide good service businesses also need to look at how missed calls are handled. Putting in place a good call response system will also help to boost the image of the organisation. Caller recognition, call divert and answerphone services can all help to soften the experience when calls aren’t answered by the chosen recipient. 

In essence, when deciding on the best way of programming your automated switchboard to handle calls, think of the callers as friends. Answer as many calls as possible, be friendly and if you can’t answer the call make sure the caller knows why and is reassured that you will call them back as quickly as you can. As with the “Staff” project, it is surprising how a simple friendly chat can make all the difference.

Written by Lawrence Gow