butterball turkey talk line

5 Call Center Lessons to Gobble Up From Butterball's Famous Turkey Talk-Line

No call center wants to run a-fowl of their customers this hectic holiday season. Whether customers are in a jolly mood or in full stress mode, we want to give them a friendly, helpful experience. But as every call center agent knows, that is not always easy. Fortunately, we can learn from experts — and who better than the seasoned pros on the annual Butterball Turkey Talk-Line?

This famous call center reappears every year in early October, agents poised to assist would-be turkey chefs with every little detail and smooth their ruffled feathers when necessary. Get ready to feast on these valuable lessons.

1. Omni-Channel is Key

Back in 1981, a half-dozen or so ladies “manned” the phones of Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line. But savvy call center managers knew that the secret ingredient for Turkey Talk-Line success was technology. So, when frazzled cooks clamored for more options, they added email, web-based chat, texting, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. No old fogies at the Turkey Talk-Line.

Yet, the vast majority of their customer contacts each season continue to be via phone. Why?

2. The Power of Personal Connection

Anyone can research information online, but they cannot ask questions or get personalized advice. Besides, it is a time of year when folks are thinking about family and friends, so making a human connection to talk turkey (and maybe share a short anecdote or two) just feels right.

Being nice gives customers a nicer experience, in the spirit of the holidays. What a wonderful thing to keep in mind as we all don our headsets and pull our keyboards close for another mad dash to year’s end.

3. Hire the Right People

We all know that not everyone is cut out for call center work, especially when the holidays roll around. While most agents do not have to literally save someone’s family dinner, we often do have to save their day. It takes people who love to talk to others, who can empathize with customers, who are patient and reassuring, who can and will treat everyone with kindness.

New Turkey Talk-Line agents are recruited via referrals and word-of-mouth — not unlike many new recruits at any call center. Treat people right, and give them the tools they need to help customers effectively, and they will be happy to spread the word about their great workplace.

4. Continuously Train Your Reps

When someone calls the Turkey Talk-Line, they expect agents to know their stuff (or should we say stuffing!). So, Butterball University convenes in October, as the Turkey Talk-Line is about to get underway. Agents prepare turkey dinners using multiple techniques, refreshing their extensive personal knowledge and learning the latest trends and fads.

Armed with phones, laptops, and headsets, they also have a full menu of other resources right at their fingertips. They can send video tutorials or recipe links to callers, or view customer photos to provide more specific advice.

Continuous training is crucial for year-round call centers, but ramped-up, holiday-specific training can boost confidence for agents and results for customers. How can agents work even more efficiently? Butterball hangs a big chart that serves as an at-a-glance cheat sheet for thawing/cooking times. Low tech, super-helpful.

5. Carve Out Time for Fun

Working the Turkey Talk-Line may seem amusing, but any agent knows how hard it is to stay upbeat when the lines are humming and callers can be downright cranky. Butterball keeps their call center on brand and cheerful with a big inflatable turkey and blue and yellow candies that give agents an energy boost whenever needed.

We can follow their example with seasonal decorations, snacks, and beverages that keep agents in the mood and fueled up. Or, random small prizes to thank agents for their great work. Make a list of the silliest or most heart-warming questions such as the guy who asked if it was OK to bake glitter onto his turkey, or U.S. immigrants wanting to start their own American Thanksgiving tradition. Good humor is infectious, elevating everyone’s experience.

So, what have we learned?

The Turkey Talk-Line is not really doing anything new, they are just doing everything right. With the right people, the right training, the right attitude, and omni-channel technology, every call center can serve up delicious customer experiences this holiday season.

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