Come try out the telephone coaching kits at World of Learning, Birmingham 17-18 October

We have been more than pleased with the PhoneCoach equipment. Our course provides some very complex language tools. We have previously received feedback that it is difficult for delegates to close the gap from ‘training room’ to ‘place of work’. PhoneCoach has been a real gamer changer for us in this respect allowing us to immediately put the new learning into practise without the pressure of a real life customer. Thank you for a fast, friendly and effective service.”   L & D Manager, Northumbrian Water


Come and see us on Stand C180 and try out our portable telephone coaching kits, giving your staff the chance to practice and perfect their skills and develop their telephone confidence.

For free tickets email with your details and we will post as many as you want.

Look forward to seeing you there

regards Mandy and the PhoneCoach team


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Handling Complaints

So what is the best way to handle a customer complaint? We don’t have space here to go into full details, but we can provide you with 5 helpful tips that will enable you to take control in a professional and positive way.

  1. Always stay calm – even if the customer is angry and upset, keep calm and remember they do not mean to attack you personally. Do not try to ‘win’ the case but deal with it positively, remaining professional and cool, calm and collected. Listen to them carefully, let them know that you want to hear from them and wait until they calm down.
  2. Confirm that you understand their problem – ensure that they feel that you are hearing what they are saying; if a mistake has been made, say so. Use words to show that you understand them and repeat back to them what you assume the problem is, giving the customer time to react calmly.
  3. Get the key facts – now you can begin to take the initiative and ask a few questions; please don’t use a script but have a real conversation. Get as many details as you can and make notes.
  4. Give a solution – only do this when you have enough details, being very aware of what you can offer in line with the company guidelines. Never make a promise and then have to withdraw it. Always be respectful and take ownership of the problem, telling them what you will do to solve their problem.
  5. Follow up – a few days after the solution has been received, make a quick follow up call to the customer, enabling you to turn a problem into a positive gesture. This can turn a complaint into a customer referral or recommendation.

Resolving and handling complaints correctly will not only enable your business to retain customers but can also vastly enhance the reputation of your company.

If you are a trainer you may be interested in details of our NEW Handling Complaints’ training material. It is a ready-to-run training session that lasts between 4-6 hours. More details here including a free download sample:

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Elavon UK Case Study

Creating great calls and smoother transactions

In the world of merchant services and payment solutions there is little room for error. When money is involved, be it business to business, consumer to business, local transaction or international finance, the people involved need to feel complete assurance. That’s why global payments provider, Elavon, invest heavily in training their staff to be the best that they can possibly be! Having great products is one thing, but it is people who give a business its true value.

Elavon UK has offices across Europe (Ireland, Poland, Spain, Norway & Germany)  and maintains the same level of training throughout its operation. This includes in-house relationship skills and sales courses for all of its customer-facing personnel.

In addition to the benefits of the equipment, Mandy fully understood our needs and sent over some additional telephone training information. Jenny Lloyd-Jenkins, Executive Coach and Learning & Development Manager

Out of the classroom and into the real world

Jenny Lloyd-Jenkins, Executive Coach and Learning & Development Manager for Elavon, has been using PhoneCoach’straining equipment for about four years, since it replaced their in-house technology solution. She says that the equipment has improved the success of their training programmes, and opened up new possibilities of what can be achieved during the sessions. From being restricted to a classroom structure to being able to create a realistic roleplay environment, the PhoneCoachsystem has been a real gamechanger.

Elavon marks its delegates by an internal benchmark, across a 3-month period, throughout the company. This score has been seen to rise by approximately 30% since introducing PhoneCoach.

From making sales to building customer relationships

Elavon is committed to honing the telephone skills of its sales and customer services teams to enhance their success with inbound and outbound calls. Over the past 12 months, around 100 sales staff and 200 operational staff have been trained using PhoneCoach’sequipment. The delegates come from across Europe and can be based in any of the company’s European offices.

The delegates often comment that being able to learn in a realistic roleplay environment makes the training more engaging and enjoyable, and that they feel they can gain more from the training. Listening to recordings of each other’s calls enables the whole group to get better feedback and for the trainers to be able to share best practice. This is particularly useful in teaching delegates how to use talk-track guides in a personable and interactive manner.

Facilitating training an ever-changing world…

Like many businesses, in today’s increasingly connected world, Elavon is facing changes in its working methods and behaviours. This will include remote workers across Europe in the future, and the PhoneCoachequipment is likely to become an even more critical aid to facilitating their continual learning and development.

Elavon delivers payment solutions to suit its customer’s businesses…and PhoneCoachsupports them in delivering the service behind those solutions!

I felt happier trying out new things in front of my colleagues when using PhoneCoachin a safe environment Course Candidate

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Network Homes Case Study

Turning 20,000 houses into homes – by phone!

When you are dealing with big numbers, in a busy customer service centre, covering London, Hertfordshire and the South East, it is a sizeable task to respect each new caller as an important individual. But while managing 20,000 homes and marching confidently towards its 90% ‘total customer satisfaction’ targets, the housing association, Network Homes is committed to doing just that. And to build these customer relationships effectively, they have invested in the best help available…

Using PhoneCoach has massively enhanced the roleplay element of my training sessions, and the company’s customer satisfaction results support this. Rachel Taylor, Trainer

Aiming for a Positive First Response.

As the first point of call, whenever any of its tenants or customers have a question, query or need, each of the organisation’s Customer Services Advisors (CSAs) needs to be ever ready to smile and respond on the phone. These calls can cover anything,

from an emergency repair or tenancy enquiry, to a bit of a grumble and the ultimate goal for every single one is a swift resolution and an improved relationship.

For many years, the CSAs have been trained well above the standards normally associated with roles like these, in techniques such as creating a ‘positive first response’. They are taught the value of smiling down the telephone (try it – you’ll be amazed at the effect it has), showing empathy and taking as much time as they need to fully understand each caller’s needs. Network Homes have long recognised the importance of investing to achieve its ambitious results.

I didn’t realise how often I say ‘yeah’ down the phone – and now I know I can consciously make an effort to stop. Customer Services Advisor

Great trainers need great equipment…

It is often said that the best training in the world is only as good as its application and that learning in a classroom can never really prepare you for the real world. Well, Network Homes recognised this too.

Until early in 2016, the organisation had always trained its CSAs face-to-face with the trainer, and under the watchful gaze of everyone else. The roleplays were hindered by self-consciousness, the Q&A’s were led by the confident, and there was very little opportunity for constructive individual feedback.

I enjoyed the roleplay: it is a realistic way to learn from hearing your own voice and others.
Course Candidate

As soon as they met Mandy from PhoneCoach and she demonstrated their Alpha range of products they knew they had found the answer. Finally they had the equipment to convert a classroom into a real-world experience.

Roleplay becomes Real-Play and creates positives responses!

For Customer Services Trainer, Rachel Taylor, PhoneCoach has supercharged her material. She can now go into another room and make trial calls, out of view of the CSAs, and they can take away an MP3 of their calls at the end. The response from the customer service centre team has been enthusiastic, and the upward customer satisfaction results are confirming the positive effect.

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PageGroup Case Study

A call for evangelic praise
For employees the world over, a training course usually means a day-off out of the office or a boring waste of their precious time. It is the job of the trainer to turn an uninterested audience into one that leaves with changed minds and a new set of skills. An even greater training course success would lead to a wave of evangelic praise and a desire to come back for more.

For PageGroup, the worldwide specialist recruitment experts, PhoneCoach has helped deliver the cutting edge which has kept its course delegates talking long after each event has finished.

That is the course where you get an MP3 of your calls Course delegate

Barum Jefferies PageGroupA global business needs a big vision
You don’t get to be a world leader in any industry without embracing innovation, creating an enthusiastic workforce and continually seeking out better methodologies. So, when PageGroup appointed Barum Jeffries as their new Talent Development Associate Director, in 2013, it was with a clear directive to go and make a genuine difference and keep the business ahead of the pack.

PageGroup employs 15,000 in the UK, and Barum is responsible for developing sales training for all their Recruitment consultants and managers. These courses are delivered through the company’s in-house Sales Academy and cover three main areas: Building Client Relationships, Advanced Selling and Listening Skills.

It was great to get personal feedback and listen to what I sound like to my clients. I will definitely be using the skills gained from the day. Course delegate

Calling in the PhoneCoach
Understanding that the key to successful training is creating fun and engagement, Barum quickly produced an Ace from his sleeve and called up a company he’d used in a previous role: telephone coaching equipment provider, PhoneCoach Limited. With Alpha, their powerful roleplaying system, in his hands and inspired by PhoneCoach’s training and support materials, he has developed online business simulation and realistic roleplay environments far beyond a classroom’s restraints.

£250,000 of new sales revenue is attributable directly to Sales Academy 2 and Phonecoach
Barum Jeffies

Ringing up the results
PageGroup employees now look forward to the Sales Academy courses; both those that have already attended one and those that have simply heard about them. It is fair to say that some might still approach the door with a little hesitancy, but nothing is more satisfying than seeing their fear turn into enjoyment and reading the feedback forms at the end of each day.

In fact, the only thing to top the verbal feedback for these PhoneCoach inspired sales courses is the company’s growing evidence of stronger, more productive calls as a direct result of building the course around the Alpha system.

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Telephone Training News

Sharing-a-secretLooking for inspiration for your telephone training courses? In this post I’ve pulled together some of my top free resources, tips and news for trainers working in sales and customer service. Fun and effective icebreakers, energisers, infographics, blogs and videos – there’s some good stuff out there if you know where to look!

Free e-book on creative facilitation techniques
Free download from the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) this 20-page book gives an overview of different instruction methods and when to use them. Skip to the end for handy tips and checklists.

Communication and listening skills exercises
No less than 26 communication exercises gathered from LinkedIN discussions in this excellent post from the Trainers Warehouse blog. The paper folding exercise never fails to impress.

Free sales training content
Businessballs is a huge repository of free training resources, but it can be overwhelming. This section on sales training covers sales terminology, theories and methods. There are similar sections on cold calling techniques, customer service and empathy – which includes listening and handling complaints.

Video guide to effective communication
Need some light relief? A short, training-room friendly YouTube video about the importance of asking the right questions.

Why people don’t make sales calls
Seven excuses why people don’t make the sales call, and how to challenge them. From the sales consultancy blog at Tack International. Lots of tips in their archived posts as well.

Customer service skills infographic
This infographic outlines no less than 25 skills a person needs to deliver excellent customer service. Who said it was easy?

40 eye-opening customer service quotes
Inspiring quotes from this Forbes article. How about: “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. ~ Donald Porter

Free training games
Another huge resource for free training games, quizzes and tips is – there are 396 games on this page alone. Check out #73 Concern for Customers for a game on empathy and #229 Objections for a roleplay game on objection handling.

Very funny short video about listening
It’s not about the nail – a hilarious video that still manages to get across an important point about listening.

Also, don’t forget to download the 7 checklists for reviewing role-plays from our website if you haven’t already.

Phew – a lot of good resources – I hope you find them useful!

Image courtesy of stockimages /

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Some new customers this week

flowersA big thank you to some of our new customers this month


Anglian Home Improvements – an Alpha 6 for their induction and upskilling in the contact centre

Helm Training – an Alpha 6 for employability skills development

Skillsmatch, Tower Hamlets – an Alpha 12 and an Alpha 6 for employability skills, apprenticeships and general communication skills development.

Ministry of Defence – an Alpha 6 for their induction and upskilling


They have been joined by Rolls Royce, Nationwide and The Best Connection who have been hiring equipment for their courses – amongst others.

For information on what will suit your training needs best, give us a call 01323 765111 or email me

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21 ways to improve complaints handling in your contact centre

tom on headsetGreat piece by Contact Centre Management Association


21 Ways to Improve Complaints Handling in Your Contact Centre

19th April 2016

Our recent best practice visit to Tesco Bank in Glasgow focused on transforming complaints. Here are some of the tips that were shared:


1. Find out if general enquiries are being logged as complaints

It is important to get to the heart of what is being logged as a complaint in your contact centre.

If calls are being mislabelled as complaints – when they are actually just general enquires or customers closing an account as they’ve found a cheaper deal – you could be clogging up the system unnecessarily and delaying genuine complaints from being resolved.

An extensive call-listening exercise (listening to around 2,000 calls) should help you to get to the bottom of this. For example, one contact centre found that 25% of their total volume of complaints were the result of incorrect logging.

2. Empower the front line to feedback (and up) about what isn’t working

Front-line agents are a great source of insight into the issues that are driving customer complaints and how things could be improved.

A complaints feedback tool can harness this information and feed it back to the management team.

This information should be acted on and any changes (or reasons for not making changes) should be fed back to agents on the community forum.

3. Redesign your complaints training so everyone gets it right from day one

New starters can have a negative impact on the team’s complaint-handling performance if they are not fully up to speed on how things are done.

One way to resolve this is to make sure your complaints culture and procedure is firmly embedded in your agents from day one in the business.

Review your training and induction programmes to make sure everyone is on the same page.

4. Nominate “complaint buddies” to help departments communicate

Pairing up managers from different departments as “complaint buddies” can give individuals the single point of contact they need to reach the other department and get an issue resolved.

With an individual’s phone number or desk location, they provide immediate access for feedback on any situation as it develops without having to be passed from pit to post.

This can also help to address cross-site challenges of regular contact and support.

5. Tell your customers’ individual stories in the boardroom

It can be difficult to convince the board that a particular issue is driving up customer complaints, especially as statistics can quickly merge into each other in the board room.

However, highlighting a problem with a story about an individual’s experience can help personalise the issue and emphasise why it matters.

For example, “We had Mrs Smith on the phone yesterday crying about her lost parcel” could replace statistics about delivery problems.

6. Save time and money by empowering agents to issue immediate refunds

Some organisations are reluctant to empower their agents to issue refunds. However, they could be costing the organisation money by not doing so.

The agent immediately issuing a £40 refund for a broken vase is usually far easier and cheaper than escalating the issue through the formal complaints procedure – especially when you take the cost of everyone’s time into account.

Giving clear examples of scenarios where refunds or compensation is due can help agents understand where this is an appropriate response.

7. Hold individuals accountable for escalating calls

It doesn’t take much for a blame culture to develop between different areas of any business, especially if calls are being passed unnecessarily between departments.

One way to tackle this is to embed a culture of accountability.

For example, team leaders should take responsibility for the calls their agents are passing through to another department and review any case before it is escalated.

8. Ease the pressure by setting realistic expectations for your customers

If a call does require more information or follow-up activity, it is important that the agent sets clear expectations for the customer – even if it is to say that they will call back in 3 hours’ time.

This can help to ease the pressure on anyone else involved in resolving the issue, as they can finish their meeting before investigating the query thoroughly, instead of dropping everything to hurry back to the customer.

It can also stop a customer from phoning back unnecessarily and blocking the line for a new caller.

9. Gather once a month to discuss what isn’t working

A good way to keep track of the issues generating customer complaints in the business is to hold a Customer Forum once a month.

This is an opportunity for key individuals to gather and discuss the latest trends and data. This insight can then be driven back into the business via the responsible departments.

10. Swap your complaints email address for a complaints form

A generic complaints email address on your website can attract a large number of emails about generic issues instead of complaints.

(One contact centre found that 90% of emails coming through on this address were about general service issues and weren’t actually complaints.)

It can take up a lot of time to sort these emails into complaints and non-complaints and forward them to the relevant departments.

One way to resolve this is to swap your complaints email address for a specific complaints form on the website.

You will also have the opportunity to shape the information you gather by the questions you ask, making it easier to resolve the query once it comes through.

11. Make sure “customers come first” is a clear focus at all levels

A lot of managers think that they have a “customers come first” message at the heart of their business but don’t have a firm grasp of how this filters down to the front line.

Unintentionally, the message gets diluted or intercepted by the introduction of different metrics and targets.

One way to overcome this issue is to align your quality scorecards and objectives with the needs of the customer.

This can also help improve employee engagement, as agents understand exactly how they help the customer.

12. Target on First Contact Resolution (FCR) to break the habit of call escalation

It is easy for agents to fall into the “knee-jerk” habit of escalating trickier calls – even if it isn’t the best solution for the customer or the department the call is being passed to.

Targeting agents on metrics such as First Contact Resolution (FCR) can help agents really think about how to resolve that customer’s query without escalating.

13. …And monitor “unnecessary referrals”

If you are finding that a lot of calls are being referred to another department or escalated without due cause, introducing an “unnecessary referrals” metric can help to address this.

This is a far more relatable approach for the agent and team leader when compared with pinning down First Contact Resolution rates.

This metric assesses all referred calls to determine how many of those could have been handled without any escalation. Feedback is then given on a weekly and monthly basis.

14. Give everyone the information they need to do their job properly

There is no good to be gained by saying “don’t pass these calls through to me” and walking away.

(This applies both to team leaders training their agents and team leaders developing their relationships with external departments.)

Instead, take the time to ask “what do you need to achieve this” and then work together to deliver the necessary training and materials.

A really helpful aid is a reference guide of real-life examples and what to do in that situation – without getting anyone else involved. It can also help to have regular meetings to make sure this knowledge bank is as effective and up to date as it can be.

Sharing knowledge is key to success.

15. Put adaptive processes in place to help you adapt to changing customer needs

Design your processes so that they can be easily tweaked to suit the changing needs of your customers.

You should never be delivering a bad customer experience just because “it’s too hard to change the process”.

16. Tie key metrics together across different departments

Different departments are often unaware of the negative impact they may be having on one another. Even if they are, they can be reluctant to change anything that isn’t directly impacting on their own performance.

Encourage everyone to be more conscientious of their behaviour by tying key metrics together across the different departments.

17. Don’t be too strict with your reason codes

If you are too specific with your reason codes, it can be hard for agents to decide what goes where. This can lead to calls being tagged incorrectly.

Try giving agents guidelines instead of rules to clarify what your big problems really are.

18. Make it easy for your customers to complain

How easy is it to complain to your organisation?

If your customers have to dig through pages of your website to find a buried phone number, you are making life difficult for everyone.

  • You are creating another frustration for your customers, on top of the problem they are already trying to contact you about.
  • You are depriving your organisation of valuable insight that could help to drive key improvements in your business.
  • You are inviting more complaints to your social media feed, as this is a last-resort channel for many people.

Remember, a complaint is proactive feedback from the customer!

19. Establish which agents are generating the most complaints

Complaints don’t come out of nowhere.

Measuring the competency of both individuals and departments – in regard to the numbers of complaints they each generate – can help you address the key issues that are contributing to the volume of complaints.

For example, recurring delivery problems in a particular area, or agents forgetting (or not knowing how) to set customer expectations in line with any given outcome.

20. Give your complaints team control of social media

A large proportion of customer tweets are complaints-related, so it makes sense for your complaints team to be in control of this channel instead of dealing with escalations from other departments.

Due to the sensitive nature of some issues, it usually helps to quickly move the conversation offline or into a Direct Message (DM).

The main exception to this is serial complainers, who often seek attention long after their complaint has been dealt with.

A public response can help show your other customers that you have resolved the issue, and (hopefully) send the serial complainer on their way.

21. Don’t prioritise one channel over another

Make sure all complaints – even those coming in by letter – are handled with equal importance.

It can help to allocate specific people to emails and letters to ensure they are also handled in a timely manner.

This can stop duplicate complaints coming in on different channels, as customers try and work out which channel will get the fastest response


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