Put music in your voice

The following is a true story about the power of voice in the workplace.

Several years ago there was a customer service call center whose business results were dropping.  Few customers were calling.   Of those who did call, few purchased any products.  Customer complaints were coming in at record rates.  Calls were taking more time to complete. The amount of time between calls was also up.

The CEO of the company decided to bring in an efficiency expert to solve the problem.   When the consultant finished his analysis, his final report contained one observation, one recommendation, and one prediction.

Observation: “The tone of voice your employees use puts customers off.”

Recommendation – “Post a huge banner with the words, ‘Put a Smile in Your Voice’ in a place all staff can see it.”

Prediction – “Your call center staff will sound more friendly, and sales will go up.”

The CEO wasn’t convinced, but since he’d paid a hefty fee, he decided to follow the consultant’s advice. That afternoon he asked the director of corporate communications to create a huge banner. The director and his staff worked all night and produced a white banner with large red letters that read: “Put a Smile in Your Voice.” After the sentence, as if to prove the point, they drew a big yellow Happy Face.

The next morning as the employees arrived, everyone was talking about the banner.  The water cooler gossip was in full swing, and the rumor mill was working overtime.

Much to the CEO’s surprise, however, instead of liking the banner and embracing its message, most employees were upset.  They felt the idea of “a smile” showed just how unaware of their working conditions the CEO really was. Some felt insulted.

One call center representative had a different reaction.  He liked the idea of the banner, just not the wording.  He also had an idea how management and staff could solve the productivity problem together.

“Look,” he said to his coworkers, “It’s true we have no reason to put smiles in our voices.  Our working conditions are stressful, no doubt about it.  Still, I don’t think we should take our problems out on our customers.  We’ve all been in the customer’s shoes and know how a phone call with a rude service rep can really ruin your day.

” I know a way we can tell management the changes we want and at the same time improve our customer calls.  Better calls will bring better financial results. And that will make all of our lives more pleasant.”

His friends at the water cooler weren’t convinced, but the rep just shrugged and said, “Okay, you’ll see.”

The next morning when the employees arrived, they noticed the old banner had disappeared.  In its place, in the exact same colors and lettering, they saw a new banner that read, “Put music in your voice.”  And in place of the yellow Happy Face, they saw a new icon – a large musical note.

“Who doesn’t like music?” the employees asked each other.  “And what customer wouldn’t enjoy talking with someone thinking about music?  Let’s give it a try.”

The story has a happy ending.   The CEO came to understand how the Happy Face banner had felt wrong to stressed-out employees.  He began a dialogue with staff on how to ease the pressures while improving customer satisfaction scores. The results were phenomenal.

Within a month, the scores went off the charts.   Within six weeks, a delighted management team installed a state-of-the-art sound system in the cafeteria.   The employees put music in their voices. The company put music in their lives. And the customers sang a whole new tune.

The next time you answer your phone, put music in your voice. It just might make your caller’s day. It just might make your day as well.