De-Stressing Phone Calls

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth’s School of Computing have come up with a new app which is designed to help people to manage their stress levels when receiving text messages.  Using a combination of key words the app will code and colour the message green for positive, blue for neutral and red for bad news.

Luckily the app is designed to adapt to the user’s perception, as what is potentially stressful to one person could make another smile.  The university press release includes examples of good, neutral and bad news including the following example of potentially stressful news “I was very tired and got on the wrong bus – whoops”.

The Portsmouth University researchers say that being pre-warned of potentially stressful news within a message enables people to take appropriate action.  This could include following a stress management technique before opening the message or even simply deleting the message.  Unfortunately the app is designed to work only on messages and so won’t screen out all those scam telephone calls such as the ones which purport to be from Microsoft telling you that there is a major problem with your computer.

Whether the app turns out to be a success or not, it has highlighted the fact that interaction by telephone can be stressful for many people.  And it doesn’t really matter what level people sit at in the organisation. It may be easy to assume that a junior employee who is expected to field sales calls for first-time may require some element of telephone training whilst a senior manager who regularly carries out teleconferences and briefings over the phone is already phone adept, but seniority does not automatically equate to good telephone technique.

It therefore follows that businesses which want to help their employees to build good telephone technique needs to offer training in good telephone technique to people at all levels of the organisation. But no matter how good the training, if the business telephone system is less than ideal that employees are either going to avoid picking up the phone at all costs, or will face every potential call with trepidation. Worse still, potential callers (in particular those new customers who are interacting with the business for the first time) are going to have such a bad telephone experience that they will be actively looking to place their business elsewhere.

Let’s look at one potential problem area which can cause distress to both employees and customers; the challenge of directing incoming calls to the right person or department. Good call management services benefit both caller and employee. The better planned the call transfer system, the more likely it is that customers will reach the right contact first-time. This not only means that callers will receive a positive impression of the organisation, it also saves employees from having to answer calls which are quite unrelated to their department.

Luckily the advent of virtual switchboards makes it far easier, and cheaper, to manage and transfer calls.  Optimising call pathways helps to ensure that callers are directed to the right department, whilst the use of services such as personalised messages and virtual assistants can take the strain if call handlers are unavailable. As a result, callers can be looked after without raising their stress levels and this in turn reduces the anxiety levels of those having to return missed calls or cope with mis-diverted calls. 

In reviewing the app, Pamela Briggs of the British Psychological Society told the BBC that “Stress is often made worse by the anticipation of an unpleasant event and actually dissipated once you tackle the problem directly.”  Training in telephone techniques allied to a robust business telephony system which is programmed to divert calls swiftly and efficiently to an appropriate individual can help to ensure that the telephone is a valuable and stress-free aid to the business.

Written by nilfg