By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Expert; Keynote Speaker; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training

I usually start with “This is a true story.” However, since all my stories are ‘true,’ someone told me I don’t need to say that. It’s a waste of your time and mine.

So, listen up. Whether you’re hiring for someone who will be handling phone calls or a face-to-face situation, this is one tip I believe is missing from all the questions an applicant is asked in the hiring process.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of bringing our Telephone Doctor customer service training programs onsite to one of the largest communication companies in the world. From Texas to Minneapolis; from New York to L.A.; we delivered over 20 programs to the call centers across the country. I still hear from some of the CSR’s.

One of the concerns Managers had, and why I was helping and consulting, was the way the calls were being handled. They had complaints of no sympathy, empathy, sounding bored, tone of voice, not answering questions sufficiently, and several other comments/complaints from customers. Managers would eventually handle the calls; however, it shouldn’t have happened at all.

They had me listen to many of the calls as I traveled to each center. Half way through I asked the management, “Tell me how you hire these folks. What process do you have?”

The answers were normal. They gave them typing tests. (Yes, before computers. We call it keyboarding today. Does not make me old, makes me ‘seasoned.’) They had math testing (arithmetic would make me old – lol); grammar, and spelling tests. And a few tests I couldn’t figure out the reason for doing.

When they were done sharing the “how” I asked one simple question. “Where is the voice test?”

The WHAT they asked. The voice test, I said. How do you know they can carry on a phone conversation? After all that was their job.

Deer in the headlights. They had been hiring for call center CSR’s all over the country and never had tested their voices.

While I assured them the testing they were doing was well and good, and should be given, they might be missing the biggest one. How do they sound to the customers? It was clear as I listened behind the scenes to the calls that some of the voices were not well spoken or could even be understood that well. And while they had passed the written grammar and other tests, they did not pass the spoken one. I personally would not have hired several.

I wouldn’t HIRE anyone who is going to work with customers at Telephone Doctor without a voice test. It’s easy and unthreatening.

THE TIP: Somewhere during the interview, as you decide you like the individual, ask the applicant to call your office (or cell), ask for you and talk with them. You, of course, need to excuse yourself from the room. It can also be done by having the applicant call you from their home to your office. But it absolutely needs to be done. It’s done on the spur of the moment; just as a phone call from a customer is.

Have a 5 to 10 minute conversation with them on routine things. Ask them to tell you about themselves. (FLASH: If they aren’t able to do that, how can they talk about your product or services? If they ask, “Well, what do you want to know?” you don’t have a very proactive individual.

You will learn so much about the applicant you would never have found out with all the other ‘testing.’

Do the VOICE CHECK before you hire. You will avoid a lot of frustration.

A FEW things to check for:

  • Tone of voice
  • Grammar
  • Speed – Can they/do they match the speed of the caller
  • And, of course, did you “HEAR” the smile?

A 5 to 10 minute casual conversation will save you time, money and get you a better employee. And happier customers.

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at; through the website at, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.