If you inadvertently drive your car the wrong way along a one-way street, you may rely on it that you will get clear feedback on your behaviour! Others will let you know precisely where you have gone wrong!
In telephone work, feedback rarely occurs. Hardly anyone ever says, “I think you made a good job of dealing with what was obviously an awkward call“. Certainly no-one is likely to say, “I wonder whether you might have handled that call differently?” Indeed, we all know telephone answerers who continually speak before the connection is fully made so we miss half the greeting. They get no feedback to tell them what is going wrong, so they make the same mistake over and over again.
The more we use the telephone the more confident we become but the more we also take the skill for granted, and using the telephone is a skill. Having the knowledge of how to make or take a call is not enough on its own. Trainees therefore need the opportunity to practise so that they can get feedback and therefore develop their skill.
Obtaining such practice is not easy in real life. We cannot practise our skills with a “real” caller on the other end. There is potential for misunderstanding, even error. We cannot try out new ideas on customers without testing them out first in a risk-free situation.
Role-play provides a safe vehicle for such practice and feedback.
Probably the single biggest benefit of using role-plays in your telephone training is that the trainees really enjoy the experience. Once you have overcome the initial concerns the trainees may have (particularly those new to role-playing) you will find that trainees have fun in role-playing. In fact we often get told by trainers that the trainees said the role-playing was the best part of the whole course.
There will always be a degree of apparent self-consciousness, but this is usually no more than natural modesty. Just as when people see themselves on video, people listening to themselves seem to respond coyly. In reality, we find the modesty is usually a measure of social “false” modesty. Most trainees find listening to recordings of themselves an encouraging experience, but are reluctant to admit publicly to actually thinking, “I thought I handled that rather well; I really sound as though I know what I’m talking about, don’t I?“
It does not take long to get trainees to see this positive side of role-playing and, once they do, you will find the trainees – even inexperienced ones – are enjoying their role-playing.
Once this happens, the learning of new skills, responses, approaches, tactics etc, becomes a pleasure for them. As a trainer, you will know what this can do for your training.