Transform your Company’s Customer Experience through Vocal Authenticity and Insightful Listening – Notes for Contact Centre Presentations

“The human voice allows us to literally Touch others from a distance; but the quality of that touching relies on the quality of our intention” – Tim Noonan


This post has been prepared for attendees of my Presentations delivered to the NSW Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) and approximately 1000 St.George & Westpac Bank Contact Centre agents.

“Can I just say this.. “Tim …you’re awesome!” Tim’s intellect really shone through, he’s a marvelous communicator. And judging by the attendees reaction, they all took something valuable away from the experience.” – Brendon Walker – Director NSW, Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA

Please email us to inquire about corporate voice workshops and presentations.

  • Learn how to use your own voice to create more meaningful and trusting customer connections face to face and over the phone!

  • Learn strategies and techniques which promote vocal understanding; foster expressive speaking and nurture insightful listening.

  • Learn a range of strategies and practical techniques for speaking with more clarity, confidence and compassion, and skills for listening to others with greater recall, depth and understanding.

  • Exploration of the inevitable and essential relationships that exist between Voice and Likeability; Voice and Authenticity; and most important of all, Voice and Trust.

“The voice emerges literally from the body as a representation of our inner world. It carries our experience from the past, our hopes and fears for the future, and the emotional resonance of the moment. If it carries none of these, it must be a masked voice, and having muted the voice, anyone listening knows intuitively we are not all there.” – David Whyte, The Heart Aroused## Free eBook and Vocal Essence Newsletter

During this talk I mention my eBook ‘Your Voice is Your Business: Seven Voice Strategies for Vocal Brilliance’. Read or download my Your Voice is Your Business eBook.

You may also wish to subscribe to Vocal Essence our occasional Voice and Communication Newsletter.

Some themes covered in this talk include

Humming, Ahhhhhh (Vocal Valium) and Eeeeeeeee (Sonic Caffeine)

Vocal Toning – using the voice to produce sustained sound and elongated vowels – can rapidly shift our emotional state, release stress or even raise our level of alertness.

  • Quiet humming is a great way to wake and warm up your voice, and prepare for an upcoming conversation. Humming brings you more into present moment and out of your head.

  • The descending Ahhhhhhh sound, in addition to releasing tension, can also bring your voice down from your head into your chest, leading to increased vocal warmth and emotional connection with others. I call this Vocal Valium

  • A minute or two of producing prolonged Eeeeeeee sounds – sounded at a mid note, a mid-high note and a high note – will wake up your intellect and prepare you for the day or task ahead. Don Campbell calls this Sonic Caffeine.

5 Qualities of a Vocally Conscious (Authentic) Voice

If you start applying some or all of the following V-O-I-C-E techniques, you will be more effective as a communicator, more interesting to engage with, and your like-ability factor will almost certainly increase.

  • V – Vibrant
  • O – Open
  • I – Intentional
  • C – Conversational
  • E – Emotionally Expressive

You can read the full V-O-I-C-E article here.

The Intrinsic Relationship between Voice and Trust

You can hear me talk in more depth about this topic in my Voice, Relationships and Trust Video.

Trust can be assessed in the following ways:

  • Being open to the possibility that human speech and human hearing/listening can read the emotions and assess the trust of another within a specific context;
  • Rich speech which isn’t missing key emotional and personal information – I call head speaking empty speech;
  • The congruency of our words and of our sound and body language is the key to trust;
  • Deeper listening which involves dimming our visual processing (such as closing your eyes at the start of a telephone call);
  • Allowing a voice to resonate inside us, to feel how it makes us feel, rather than limiting our focus to just the words;
  • When questions or doubts arise, probing or seeking more information.

Voice, Relationship and Speaker Attitude

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!” – Maya Angelou

Whenever we hear someone speak we automatically make an assessment of their attitude to us and to what they’re talking about. I talk about this more in my Voice is All About Relationship post.

Resonance and Entrainment

I discussed the importance of entrainment for managing call speed and energy. You can read more about the principle of entrainment here.

Deeper More Insightful Listening

Research has found that closing the eyes can lead to the listener hearing more detail in sounds. In yoga we sometimes say Close the eyes; open the heart. When we close our eyes we increase the amount of cognitive processing available to interpret and understand what we hear, such as the emotional state of the speaker.

“As communication and service industries displace manufacturing ones,and social mobility increases, along with the number of divorced parents whose main contact with their children is by phone, the ability to interpret voices becomes an increasingly prized skill – too often unacknowledged. It atrophies with disuse, but can be regained with practice. A mixture of concentration and relaxation is involved: You have to direct and focus the ear while allowing it to remain loose and receptive.” – Anne Karpf

The Likeability Factor

Tim Sanders has written an entire book and recorded a great lecture on The Likability Factor – Our level of Emotional Attractiveness.

“Your likeability factor reflects your personal capacity to consistently produce positive emotional experiences in other people. You have this capacity in good and bad times. You are natural and authentic, smart when it comes to your emotions and more importantly, the emotions of other people.

We’ve learned that in the case of humans, you can make a bet on the “law of reciprocity”. This law states that people will reciprocate emotional experiences. Sometimes they reciprocate in a direct reflection (back at you) and other times they reciprocate in an indirect direction (at the next Customer, a coworker or family member). ” – Tim Sanders

IVR Standards and Voice User Interface Design

Tim Noonan was a principal researcher and contributing author for all of the Standards mentioned below.

All IVR and ACD systems in Australia should comply with the Australian IVR Standard – AS/NZS 4263 Interactive voice response systems – User-interface – Dual tone multi frequency (DTMF) signalling.

Banks and other financial service providers should additionally comply with the Accessible Telephone Banking Industry Standard published by the Australian Bankers’ Association.

If your telephone service incorporates speech recognition the user experience may be improved by consulting the Australian Standard – (AS 5061-2008) Interactive voice response systems user interface – speech recognition

These Standards represent world’s best practice in customer centred and consistent telephony design.

You may also wish to read a paper I wrote sometime back, but is still relevant today, Designing User Friendly Voice Systems which is a great primer on good IVR design.

Discussion of Vocal Branding and Contemporary Applications of Voice

Vocal branding is the strategic and purposeful use of voice to convey ideas, impressions and feelings from speaker to listener. It realizes the intrinsic capacity of the human voice to transmit emotion, and its extraordinary potential to create compelling, durable and trusted brand relationships with clients, colleagues and customers.

About Tim Noonan

Tim Noonan is a voice consultant and lecturer, human factors & voice user interface designer, inspirational conference speaker and the founder of Vocal Branding Australia.

Tim has been designing, scripting and enhancing IVRs for nearly two decades and is one of the principal authors of the Australian IVR Standard as well as authoring the Australian Telephone Banking Standard and the Australian Telephone Voting Standard.

Tim has a degree in Cognitive Psychology and Education, with a particular focus on how people process and comprehend auditory information. A lifelong student, his formal studies also include a Diploma of Remedial Massage Therapy, a Certificate in Relaxation Hypnosis and extensive studies in energetic & sound healing.

Over the last 20 years he has blended his interests in technology and speech, to bring printed and online information to life for people who are blind or print disabled. Tim also works as an auditory user interface consultant, designing and enhancing automated telephone services and directing voice-over artists in the studio.

Tim Noonan is a professional listener and the creator of the Vocal Consciousness approach – strategies and techniques which promote vocal understanding; foster expressive speaking and nurture insightful listening. As a person blind from birth, Tim has learnt to listen for countless vocal cues that reveal so much more than the casual listener is aware of; and once enlightened, your way of speaking and listening will change forever.

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