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How You Speak Counts

Have you ever been in an unproductive collaboration session in which one person dominates, another person lacks confidence and doesn’t speak, and others are tuned out? Or have you ever encountered bad vibes when talking to a contact center agent? Employee and agent behavior can make or break a meeting or customer engagement.
Of course, this isn’t a new concept. In fact, I wrote my favorite blog about collaboration behavior, “Collaboration is Not Automatic,” back in October 2013. More recently, wanting to explore how collaboration participants and contact center agents can improve or degrade success, I spoke with Debra Cancro, CEO of VoiceVibes. VoiceVibes, which she founded, provides automated speech coaching using artificial intelligence (AI). The aim, Cancro said, is to help people be more effective communicators by guiding speakers through personalized speech practice sessions that enhance their communication style in quantifiable ways.
What impairs the productivity of contact center agents and UC participants?
Call center turnover creates one of the biggest challenges to productivity, costing companies in terms of recruiting and training. Poor collaboration sessions delay results and hurt productivity.
With customers increasingly engaging with companies via bots, text, and email, the quality of customer experience provided by live call center agents is more critical than ever. One of the greatest aspects in preparing new agents or fostering better collaboration sessions for relationship-focused roles is getting people to the point where they can speak confidently and naturally. If this isn’t achieved, not only will customer satisfaction suffer, but the likelihood of turnover is high and the investment in hiring and training is lost.
Compounding this challenge to offer superior service levels is the fact that the pool of qualified contact center candidates is limited. The most important skill is the ability to communicate effectively in spoken conversations, according to research published last year by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. However, only 40% of executives surveyed rate recent college graduates as well prepared in oral communication. Does this sound like some of your collaboration participants?
Unproductive collaboration sessions with bad vibes may be unpopular, but getting better tools won’t help. How UC participants talk and the way they express themselves does make difference. Learning to instill positive vibes for the collaboration session can go a long way to improving the efficiency, productivity, and popularity of a meeting.
What do you mean by vibes?
Vibes is the term we use to describe how you come across -- how you’re likely to be perceived by others.
When information is conveyed out loud, whether in real time or recorded – in a video or audio call or in person -- the effectiveness of that oral communication is impacted by the delivery of the message. Does the speaker sound clear, confident, arrogant, authentic, or personable?
We’ve developed predictive models, trained on thousands of speech samples and millions of human perception ratings, to analyze recorded speech and objectively predict how an audience would rate it in 20 categories, or “vibes.”
What are some examples of vibes, and how do they help in conversations and presentations?
We measure nine positive vibes: authentic, assertive, captivating, clear, confident, dynamic/energetic, organized, personable, and persuasive. Feedback about positive vibes helps reinforce good behaviors. For example, we know that the presence of positive vibes in a seller’s voice significantly improves a listener’s response to the question, “Would you want to buy something from this person?” In fact, people were 13 times more likely to say they would want to buy from or work with a person when they rated a speaker as sounding extremely confident as opposed to not at all confident.
What about negative vibes? How do they hinder conversations and presentations?
The main way that recognizing negative vibes helps speakers is they can see exactly in their speech where they sounded the most bored or detached. Our research shows that when it comes to sales, it’s actually three times worse to sound boring than arrogant! Of course, neither is good, but I believe that’s probably the most common issue that can now be measured and coached.
Do most speakers recognize their vibes?
Most people aren’t aware of their vibes. But the software helps with awareness and, in the case of negative vibes, improvement.
Can positive vibes be adopted?
I’ve found that the key for me is simply effort. When I’m consciously trying to be engaging for my audience, it shows. To do this, I must remember that even though I might be nervous, or bored with repeating the same demo every day, I need to show passion and energy and not let it be hidden. Once you practice this enough it begins to come naturally. We think of this as building new “muscle memory” by practicing the right behaviors over and over.
How do you reduce the negative vibes?
Trial and error is the best way to reduce negative vibes. Once you become self-aware and can receive feedback every time you practice, it’s the best way I know to improve. I like the analogy of a chef tasting her soup. She adds more ingredients, then tastes again, and repeats this process until the soup is perfected. Software isn’t perfect, so our tool also has an area for peer and coach feedback and scoring. If a speaker continues to struggle with sounding a certain way, a human coach can help.
Other relevant collaboration blogs are: