Call Center Guru Reveals the Secrets to Winning in Senior Living


How is your sales team answering your phone? Are they trained to handle the toughest cookie, skilled at responding empathetically to stress, and aware of the phone tics that kill a sale?

Dylan Watts, Director of Operations at Enquire Solutions, is willing to wager your team has room for improvement. He’s managed staff at call centers for years and has learned what works -- and what doesn’t.

Here are his tips on how to help your senior living team answer the phone better to drive better results.

Teach tone

On the phone, tone of voice is your team’s primary way to add emotion to their words. Without the visual cues of body language and facial expressions, tone of voice works double time to foster connection.

For example, How may I help you, recited in a bored monotone is going to be off-putting, while a warm Hello! is like a welcome mat.

Your team can also go too far in the other direction, though, and those who are overly chipper may come off as fake. Train your staff to be warm, engaged, and genuine.

Practice phone perfection

It often takes a lot of practice for sales reps to get comfortable on the phones, gain confidence in their skills, and to learn the ins and outs of their audience. Dylan suggests engaging staff in many mock calls and roleplaying different common scenarios.

Here are some situations they should practice:

  • Fielding a call from a prospect who is hesitant about moving into senior living
  • Comforting an adult child who is conflicted about seeking care for their parent
  • Actively listening and redirecting a lonely potential resident who wants to chat for a long time
  • Soothing an angry lead who received the wrong information about an event

Forbid these flubs

Along with paying close attention to what works, Dylan cautions against the three biggest mistakes your team can make on the phone.

Be sure to include these red flags in your phone trainings:

  • Saying that they’re new. “Staff immediately loses all credibility. A caller will want to talk to someone else, someone who knows what they’re doing.”
  • Blaming a slow computer system. “This is a big no-no. It makes callers think of ineffective computer systems and a company with unreliable technology.”
  • Refusing to admit that they don’t know something. “Staff should not say: I think, or maybe. Instead of giving a dubious or incorrect answer, it’s best to say: You know, that’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but I know just the person who does. Do you mind if I put you on hold while I connect you with them? This gives the image that each team member is surrounded by experts just waiting to help out.”

Lead on language

Choosing the right words can be the difference between welcoming a new resident into a community and being on the (no) business end of a lost lead.

Encourage your staff to think about the psychology of their sentences. Dylan recommends teaching the GUEST method:

  • Greet. Build rapport with the caller.
  • Understand. Uncover the reason they are calling.
  • Educate. Establish yourself as the expert.
  • Sell and solve. Always be closing and use an assumptive close to move the sale forward.
  • Thank. Confirm the tour and also leave a warm fuzzy feeling so they answer the phone the next time you call.

Nurture narratives

Along with using language strategically, teach your team to share their own stories with callers when the time is right.

Dylan says,

“Everyone in Enquire’s management, and many of our staff, have experience with a loved one having Alzheimer’s. They have this personal connection. In training, we encourage staff to share those stories when they are taking calls from prospective residents.

It’s important that they do this gently. They can’t take over the conversation with their experience. But telling the right story is an effective way to get people’s attention and help them feel understood.”

Encourage empathy

Senior living is not transactional. At the heart of the industry are the prospective residents and their families, who often call into senior living communities at difficult times -- after experiencing a loved one’s death, after being diagnosed with dementia, or after coming to terms with a parent’s inability to care for themselves.

Your team needs to be empathetic during these tender times. Dylan says, “If someone calls and says that their mother just died and they are looking for a home for their father, you can’t say, ‘Oh, that’s too bad, can I schedule you a tour?’“

A philosophy of empathy is part of the very foundation of a good senior living community, and this philosophy should drive staffing decisions and training. That’s exactly the philosophy Dylan and his team live by:

“First and foremost, Enquire call centers are staffed with people who would help out a stranger. They are the ones that will go out of the way to help someone in need. So, in training, I just remind these natural helpers to do what they do best: listen, care, and connect.”

Cultivate a culture of caring

In bringing together a staff of natural helpers, the most successful senior living communities create a culture of caring.

Dylan says,

“The reason I will be at Enquire until the day I die is the vision and the culture of this company. Enquire’s culture bleeds into every single part of our business. You can see it in how we answer our calls, who we hire, and how we retain our employees. Our management always nurtures talent. It’s easy to fire and hire new people -- it’s hard to train people, sit with them, work through their problems, and help them grow.”

Nurture a culture of caring in your sales team through smart hiring and dedicated training. This will come through in every aspect of your community, from the first hello on the phone to move-in day.

Looking for more on answering the phones? Check out our blog on how call centers help you close sales.

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