Conduct your own business telephone conversation role play.

Role play is a viable business customer service training tool that encourages best practices and thoughtful discussion amongst team members. It can be a little unnerving to “act” in front of your colleagues, but at the end of the day, the takeaway is a more effective approach to managing the numerous issues CSRs deal with on the regular. Here are a few guidelines for how to run a business telephone conversation role play session at your office.

1. First things first. Decide what the telephone conversation is going to be about. Dealing with irate customers? Handling questions you don’t know the answers to? Collections calls?

  • Identify the issue to be addressed (for example, a customer calls stating that the package he ordered arrived broken).
  • Outline the main goals of the session (these might be calming the caller, apologizing, and creating a new shipment).
  • Get people familiar with the topic before the role play begins, and stay as upbeat as possible! The more fun you have, the more likely your employees are to learn!

2. It’s easier for people to work in small groups rather than standing in front of an entire room of people. So, split up your audience into groups of three. Person #1 will play the caller, Person #2 will play the customer service representative, and Person #3 will observe and take notes.

  • As the role play begins, the observer should document the customer service representative’s tone of voice, phrasing they used that seemed helpful/unhelpful, and how the customer reacted to their demeanor.
  • If you want to make things more realistic, have the caller and the CSR sit back to back. Vocal cues, and not facial expressions, are all we have to go on talking on the phone.

3. The role play is over. Now it’s time to debrief. This is the longest, and most important part of the exercise because it provides a chance to reflect on the process, analyzing what worked and what didn’t. Open up the floor, and involve everyone in this discussion. Ask people how it felt, and what they learned based on their interactions.

  • First, ask the CSR how she thinks it went. Was she was able to talk the customer down, did she feel as though what she was saying was being well received, or did the customer remain angry and annoyed? In other words, what did she do right, and what could she have done better?
  • Then, find out what the caller’s experience was like. Did he feel as though he was getting what he needed and that his problem was resolved?
  • Lastly, how did the observer perceive the exchange? You’ll want to ensure that the observer describes what they heard, rather than offering their take on whether it was a success or a failure. This step needs to go last so that the CSR has a chance to critique herself before potentially being criticized by someone else!

4. After the debriefing, pose a few thought-provoking questions to solidify what you learned:

  • How else could this situation have been handled to facilitate a positive outcome?
  • Which approaches seemed most effective, and which were the least effective?
  • Is it possible to anticipate how a customer is going to react? What clues can their tone of voice give you?

5.Try the role play again, and be sure to switch up each group member’s role so everyone has a chance to be the CSR. Hopefully, something positive has come from the first rotation, and you’ve all picked up a thing or two to help you empathize with, and better assist your callers!

Business telephone conversation role play provides your staff with a strong frame of reference when dealing with a variety of customer service scenarios, and arming your team with the necessary skills is a great confidence-booster, too. Give it a shot. It’s worth the momentary uncomfortable feeling your employees will have.

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