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Is Your Call Center Trained to Communicate Effectively with People in Crisis?


Call center agents must be trained to stay calm, sympathize and communicate effectively with people facing a crisis. Is your call center ready to handle these important calls?

Image of a person in crisis that needs to communicate with an effective call center

Editor’s note: This post was submitted by guest blogger,  Daphne Lefran. Enjoy!

Often times, the role of a dispatcher involves being the lifeline between people in danger and the help that they need. They are faced with having to talk fear-stricken people through some of life’s toughest moments, and not just once but several times a day. Emergency dispatchers should be trained to provide the needed service while remaining calm, even when panic strikes through the phone lines.

A frantic caller may not be able to communicate clearly for a number of obvious reasons. So call center agents should be trained to make sense of fragmented information being received and communicate clearly yet calmly in return. From broken bones to burning buildings, emergency dispatchers must know how to quickly and effectively handle every type of threatening situation. Here are some points emergency call center management should consider to ensure their workforce is trained to deal with critical calls.

Keep calm and keep others calm

The key to taking control of an emergency over the phone is to remain calm at all times. Many calls can be rather grating for the dispatcher, depending on the situation at hand. Because of this, dispatchers should be well trained in remaining extremely calm while under pressure and not allow themselves to get worked up. The best way to do this is by having dispatch agents practice keeping their voice even and their tone composed while dealing with a variety of situations. Responders should aim to strike a balance between professional behavior and supportive behavior. The overall goal is to decrease the caller’s emotional level while increasing their rational level. Call center agents should convince the caller that they can be trusted and that they care.

Active Listening

Active listening is a learned skill that is important to have when listening to and soliciting calls for accurate information. One of the skills involved in active listening is emotional labeling. It requires the emergency responder to identify the emotion you hear in the caller. This allows the call center agent to better determine how to communicate with the caller, while also informing the caller that their responder understands how they seem to be feeling. Paraphrasing, or reflecting the story or last statement the caller just stated, is another method that can help assure a distressed caller that they are being understood and heard. Practicing active listening on calls can greatly assist in dealing with people in crisis.

Planned Protocols

Different words and different phrases can mean different things to different people. Therefore, it is essential that emergency call centers have outlined protocols so that emergency responders don’t have to wing it. Dispatchers should have a logical questioning formula that can be applied to any call that results in gathering necessary information and more objective response prioritization. In most cases, an emergency dispatcher is the first on the scene of a crisis. A framework for obtaining and relaying clear, consistent and accurate information during emergency calls is vital. Structured instructions can help enhance aid to callers, risk mitigation and overall scene safety.


Emergency call center agents commonly work in close proximity to each other and handle high-pressure situations. Due to this work environment, they can develop strong bonds over their life-saving profession with their colleagues. Fostering a strong sense of family and teamwork in the work environment will lead to supportive and effective emergency call center agents.

Effective Technology

With the development of technology, dispatchers must remain up-to-date every time a new system is implemented. Their role requires a great deal of multi-tasking, involving gathering and inputting essential information while calming the caller. They must be able to adapt quickly and learn how to integrate new software and programs into their daily work routines. Nowadays, emergency call center solutions can optimize performance management, quality assurance, workload forecasting and analytical abilities. It is important that responders be trained in how to properly use the software. Communities should also evaluate 911 emergency dispatcher’s performance as well as the overall emergency response system frequently. Public safety software that allows cases to be reviewed after the fact is useful.

Above all, the focus of crisis planning should not only be on the physical response to the event, but also to the human aspect of the event. When communication is a matter of life and death, and response time the best means of guaranteeing a positive outcome in a crisis situation, the system that connects people needs to be fast, smooth, and accurate.

About the author: Daphne Lefran has been writing about customer service topics for many years and currently writes on behalf of the call center recording specialists at Kova Corp. In her spare time, she enjoys capturing moments through a camera lens, traveling to new places and cheering on the Florida State Seminoles. Follow her on Twitter @daphnelefran

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