If a smile widens on a phone call, and no one is there to see it, does it make a sound?
As it turns out, it does.
Smiles over the phone might be unseen, but they are most definitely heard.
The Power of Smiling on the Phone
It is standard advice in sales and customer service to smile while talking on the phone. In fact, there is even a term for this when applied to outgoing calls: “Smile and Dial.”
While this advice has been around for years, it is amazing how many people have still not been exposed to it. In addition to people who have never had foundational sales or customer service training, newer entrants to the workforce have almost never been given this advice. It’s not exactly the kind of thing they teach in school.
The ironic thing about this advice is that I’ve never trained anyone who questioned it or thought it was a joke. No one has asked whether there was research to back up the concept or stated that it was some sort of New Age hokum.
Of course, I am one of the people who did wonder whether there was some research to support what seems obvious to all. Happily for me and other data geeks, there is some science to support the validity of smiling on the phone.
According to an article on Discovery, human beings can differentiate vocal intonation not only between a smile and a non-smile but among different types of smile.* “Smiling affects how we speak, to the point that listeners can actually identify the type of smile based on sound alone…”
And since 84% of the message over a phone is your tone of voice, making sure that “smiling tone” comes through is imperative.
So, if smiles can be detected over a phone, what can we do to remind our teams to smile before picking up the phone and saying hello?
Making Smiles A Habit
Besides teaching your team the importance of smiling on the phone, what can you do to help them develop the habit?
I learned a great tip in this area from Michael Coburn, Director of Customer Service at Nestle USA, during last year’s Secret Service Summit. Coburn’s tip:
Nestle places branded mirrors at each phone reps’ station so the reps can see if they are smiling when they are talking on the phone.
Another method is to paste simple reminders on computer monitors or on the phone itself with messages like…
Are you smiling?
Shoulders back. Smile. Dial.
There are a number of techniques for giving “great phone.” Personally, I find it helpful to stand up and move around on important calls — it instantly changes the energy level in my voice. However, no matter what your approach to customer service on the phone is, a smile should be the foundation of it all.
Now, say cheese.
* NOTE: The original citation for this quote is no longer active. http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/01/03/smile-communication.html