How would you design a listening skills course?

Apr 28, 2011

I need to coach inexperienced Call Center reps to listen to the caller.  I have to ability to get recordings of actual calls, but they have to be depersonalized, so I could transcribe them, change the personal information, and rescript them.  The question is, how would you go about designing a course to teach someone to listen more carefully, usign active listening skills?  Has anyone done such a thing before?

4 Replies
Kim Statom

Branching scenarios wold work great.  The learner has to handle the call themselves by listening to a snippit of customer audio and selecting what they should say or ask from a few possibilities.  Their selection branches to another audio snippet in which the customer responds to the learner's response. The learner progresses throug the call in this manner to the end. 

If they choose a correct response, the call continues normally.  If they choose one or more incorrect responses, the customer's responses get more and more upset.  At the end of the call, or the customer melt down point (or other identified points throughout the call) the learner gets debriefed on what they did right/wrong, why it was right/wrong, and if necessary coached on how they can do better the next time. 

Ray Cole

If you are trying to teach specific listening skills, then another approach that might work is to have the learner pick up the phone and hear the customer's call. On-screen, while the call progresses, you could have a series of checkboxes, each labeled with something that may or may not be present in this particular call. For example, maybe there's a checkbox labeled "Caller's voice rises in volume" and one labeled "Caller remains calm" and one labeled "Caller says the problem is X but later gives evidence that contradicts this" (where "X" is something specific).

As the learner listens to the call, he or she must check off those things from the list of possibilities that are actually present in the call, while leaving unchecked those things that are not. 

Do this for a handfull of calls. It should build skills in careful listening.

You could follow this with some activities that use the results of these observations. E.g., "In Call #1 you identified the following 6 things: ... Taking these things into consideration, what is the most likely cause of the caller's frustration?"

In other words, first you develop learner listening skills so that they can learn to listen for and identify specific signals in the call, and then you develop analysis and interpretive skills so that learners build skills in figuring out the "meaning" of what they've heard. For example, maybe some set of observations suggest the caller wants to be compensated with a discount or refund, and some other set of observations suggests the caller wants something else. You want the learner to be able to make the observations and then analyze or interpret their meaning correctly.

You could then follow with activities in which the learner handles calls in the branched scenario, which gives the learner a chance to "put it all together": listen carefully, interpret what he or she is hearing, and take appropriate action to end the call to the customer's (and the company's) satisfaction.



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