be confident
I spend a lot of my working life coaching staff one on one in the new skills and techniques they’ve learned in our classroom training.

I generally begin my coaching sessions with a conversation about what staff don’t like about what they’ve been asked to do (which then gives me a good sense of what we need to address together). One fear that comes up again and again is that people hate feeling like they’re new at something. They want to be perfect before showing it to others. The lack of confidence when trying to learn and apply new skills can be crippling for people, and inhibit their willingness to give things a go so that through practice they do become proficient and confidence grows.

How to address this fear and uncertainty? Get confident in having no idea.

Generally speaking, humans are very accommodating of people who are learning and trying things out for the first time – think of the trainee supermarket checkout person. Initially you might be frustrated at the pace your line is moving until you get close enough to see the ‘trainee’ badge and notice how while they’re fumbling a bit and look kind of nervous, they’re trying their best to do their job. Your initial frustration tends to evaporate and empathy takes its place – because we’ve all been there. We know what it’s like to be trying something new.

Over the telephone, customers can’t see a trainee badge, but there is no shame in letting people know you’re new to this, rather than feeling pressured to be perfect. If you’re asked a question that you’re unsure of, customers appreciate a confident tone and manner saying ‘That’s a great question – I actually have no idea, but let me find that out for you’. If you’re struggling with a new process, tell people that – ‘I’m pretty new to this – please bear with me because I want to make sure I’m doing this correctly for you’.

There’s also no need to dread feeling like you’re fumbling over words, trying to get a call flow that feels a bit awkward to you to flow naturally and feel comfortable. In your mind it may feel like you’re losing what you’re saying and taking too long to get the words out, but often from the other end of the phone those awkward pauses sound quite considered – you’re taking the time to choose the right words to convey your message, and that causes customers to listen more closely and feel that you’re speaking directly to them. This isn’t some impersonal script or highly polished phrase that gets trotted out to everyone you speak with, this is a more natural, personal conversation you’re engaged in with them.

This up front, honest, natural way of communicating works in your favour – it lets your personality shine through. Rather than a call centre robot having an interaction with customer number 908348, you’re a human being, having a conversation with another human being, and customers love that!