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A Call Center Agent’s Guide to Handling Calls from the Elderly

 

Speaking with elderly people on the phone can provide unique challenges. Call center agents must be prepared to handle these encounters with extra care and understanding.

image of two elderly people walking down a path

Working with the elderly can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a dispatch operator.  In my own experience, elderly people tend to be patient and polite, and expect the same from the people they speak with. Elderly people rely on phone based services more than younger people  because they may not have access to or familiarity with other methods of communication, such as email or online live chat.  Keeping this in mind, a professional, attentive answering service agent is often their first and last link to a business.

Here are some tips for making sure agents are  making the best impression on an elderly customer, while providing them with vital services that they  could not otherwise access.

1. Speak Lower, Not Louder

A simple way to enhance the experience of elderly callers is to speak at a lower register. As humans get  older, they lose their ability to hear higher frequencies, regardless of the volume. As early as their  twenties, some people begin to have difficulty hearing hard consonant sounds like “s,” “h,” and “f.”  By  speaking lower, not louder, you put an end to the Huh, the What, and the Pardon Me.

2. Silence

Any experienced agent can tell a story about an elderly caller who jumps right into their problem  without listening to see what the agent actually needs. In a fast-paced call center, the temptation to  jump in and cut them off, either to put them on hold or to interrupt the caller to get the name-number-address, is real. Take the time to listen. I’ll say this again.

3. Take the time to listen

They may be just being friendly, or they may have had a bad  experienced with a rushed or unfriendly agent. Whatever the case, treat these callers with the patience and  understanding they deserve by being an active listener, taking notes when necessary, and taking an extra second or  two after they are done to make sure their story is complete. They’ll appreciate it.

4. Transparency

Elderly callers may not be as savvy as younger people when it comes to how answering services work,  but odds are you won’t be the first answering service they’ve ever come across. Some elders have  reason to be hesitant about giving out their information, as the elderly are a prime target for scams  involving phones.  With that in mind, do your best to explain  what it is you can do for them, what information you need, and why, before going into your call flow. If  they ask why you can’t do something for them, such as why you “can’t just put them through to the  doctor,” apologize, and if at all possible, explain why you cannot. Then follow up by explaining exactly  what you can do to help them out. Make the caller feel like you are on their side, and explain each  step in the process of your call flow.

5. Tell them what the next step is in resolving their problem

This point dovetails with the last one. After they are done explaining the problem, take the extra time to  make sure they know what will happen at the conclusion of the call. If their problem isn’t already solved by the time the call is over, be very clear about the steps you  are about to take to solve their problem.  If possible, give them an option for getting back in touch with you  in case they are uncertain or they are worried they have been forgotten. “I can understand you don’t  want to be left waiting. It’s the middle of the night and your heat is out. If you don’t hear back from my  technician in 45 minutes, give me a call back, okay Bernice?”

You may not be able to do much more than  take a message, but they’ll be reassured knowing that a live person is just a call away.

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