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Q-n-A: It's Not What You Say
Author: Sue Pivetta
Training Tactics & Quality Control
There seems to be an increase in automated measurement tools for call takers. You can purchase software that can 'listen' to a call and determine if the call taker did what they are supposed to do based on words and phrases used in the text - based on the call type entered. I can certainly see the value of saving time.
After reading an article about this, I began thinking about Quality Control (QC). What is quality with a 9-1-1 call and how do we measure said quality beyond words and phrases?
9-1-1 Command and Control
Words are important, yes; still the right words don't determine the quality of the work. How words are delivered determines quality. You can say OK in so many ways meaning so many things. OH-KAY, OH-kay, o-KAY. You can sound robotic, agitated, or confirming and connected with one simple OK through your inflection.
Voice inflection is a tool used to control a call and can be learned. Control is not a winning a struggle, it's maintaining a connection. The call taker only has voice to connect, control, convince, direct, reassure and comfort. How do you measure confidence, maturity, compassion, caring, control and empathy?
How does a trainee learn to use their voice as a tool? With purposeful training towards that goal through modeling, practice and evaluation directed at the voice inflection.
Defining Quality - or Not
There is no protocol card for "I just hacked up my roommate with a machete!" You can use your words to get the address, phone number, name, and learned phrases to elicit further details. Aside from gathering the correct information to send help, QC measurement must consider if the call taker controlled the call for safety as needed. Quality must be defined to be measured.
Whenever I am confused by the meaning of a word I go to Dictionary.com. As I went through the definitions, nothing was too useful to what I was trying to figure out what Quality really meant in our PSAP context. Words came up like: superior, high, merit. Well, of course, but what does that mean and how does it apply to our business? Then I reached the bottom of the page, and there it was:
QUALITY Adj: "...marked by a concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, or commitment."
An EMS Director once asked me to listen to a SIDS call where the mother said to the Call Taker, "You don't care about any of this do you?" I told the Director I would like to believe he did care, he just sounded like he didn't care; therefore, to her perception, he didn't care. He was detached and spoke in monotone - indicating to her a lack of connection with her emergency – or a lack of skill, assurance, or even that he was burnt out.
You can say the correct phrases or words – but through them all you can still sound:
- Compassionate or Condescending
- Confident or Insecure
- Attentive or Disinterested
- Focused or Scattered
- Alert or Comatose
Of course we want our Call Takers to not only sound connected but be connected. To ensure that is happening the Trainers or Quality Control team may need to invest in that wicked adversary - time – to ensure what is supposed to be happening is happening.
Not Only Words
So you are talking to your spouse or significant other and you stop and declare, "You aren't listening to me!" How did you know? It wasn't the words they said – maybe it was "Uh-huh, I see, Right." Poor thing was trying to act as if listening with the right words but something vital was missing - a concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, or commitment.
If you want to ensure quality in your call takers - both inexperienced and veterans - you can make a concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, and commitment and listen to their calls to detect their 'expenditure of involvement, concern and commitment'.
The same goes for your Trainer's quality assessment marked by their 'concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, or commitment' to their trainee. Or your Manager’s quality assessment marked by his or her 'concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, or commitment' to the people who answer the calls.
Can we measure words and phrases according to the quality of delivery to ensure maturity, connection, compassion, non-judgement, wisdom, confidence, control, and critical thinking (to name a few)? These are the human inner qualities that must be valued, assessed and taught so that individuals can indeed reach Mastery.
Sue Pivetta is a former 9-1-1 Supervisor and vocational college instructor. Sue has a BA from Antioch University in Adult Learning. She is the creator of many critical thinking training products for 9-1-1 call taking. She is the author of The Exceptional Trainer book and workshop and has created a series of 10 Adult Learning downloadable trainings. All products and workshops can be found at www.911Trainer.com. This article originally appeared in 911Trainer’s August “9-1-1 Training eTips” newsletter.
Photo: Shreveport, Louisiana, 9-1-1 Center. 911 Magazine file photo.