When you and a co-worker are having a discussion, there is more to the conversation than what is being said. While most people are aware of body language, the tone of voice used in face-to-face conversations is an important supplement to body language and facial cues.
Our brains combine these verbal and non-verbal cues to make sense of our conversations, and dig deeper into what others are saying, even if they are trying to hide some aspects. Consider this example:
You ask your co-worker how their weekend was, and they abruptly say “fine”. Now based on their tone of voice, you know that they are most definitely not fine, and you can tell by their face that they’ve been crying. You can take these cues to ask more questions and offer comfort.
Importance of Tone of Voice
On the phone, where face-to-face interaction is impossible, (we mean traditional phones that you communicate with clients on, not FaceTime and similar apps) tone of voice takes on a significant importance. A defined tone of voice is essential in establishing clear communication between both parties.
If your business is considering hiring an after-hours telephone answering service, or already works with a call center, you want to make sure the phone agents answering your calls are highly skilled and have received voice training.
After all, the entire outcome of the call rests on the demeanor and tone of your phone agent.
Setting the Tone
Setting the stage for a positive call starts with a warm, comforting tone. This puts your customer at ease and increases the likelihood of the agent capturing an accurate and complete message. This is vital in industries where compassion and accuracy are essential, such as funeral homes or doctor’s office.
Tone of voice is comprised of 3 factors:
- 1. Rate of Speech: A normal rate of speech is 125 words per minute. Anything faster will seem rushed. And, a slower rate will impart a sense of disinterest and boredom, or worse-a feeling of condescension.
- 2. Pitch: Height or depth in the tone of voice. A monotonous voice can be interpreted as robotic or disengaged. Higher pitches can be perceived as annoying or less trustworthy.
- 3. Quality: The above three factors, when taken together, will determine the overall quality of tone of voice.
A telephone agent who is conscious of all four elements will have an easier time gaining call control and creating a professional engagement. The attitude conveyed by tone of voice will determine the outcome of the call, i.e., a frustrated customer or a happy, satisfied one.
Confidence is Key
A caller has only a person’s tone of voice and helpful attitude on which to base their opinion over the phone. A tone that displays confidence will have an advantage over a weak tone. Furthermore, a confident tone commands attention, gets interrupted less often, and is more likely to be considered a leader.
At Dexcomm, we like to call this controlling the call. Rather than talking over the caller or allowing the conversation to ramble aimlessly, the agent is trained to capture the essential information of the call and get that information to the correct party. This is important when you are relying on a call answering service to extend the professionalism of the business that you have worked hard to build.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2017, but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness by Marina Prestenbach.