Samaritans launch business service

The emotional support charity The Samaritans is sharing its listening
expertise with businesses in the form of training schemes for commercial
organisations aiming to boost staff communication skills, particularly those in
customer-facing roles.

The training emphasises the importance of empathy in effective listening and
questioning. The Samaritans has for several years run programmes for other
charities, such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, and last summer
added the Inland Revenue to its client list. Now it is expanding into the
commercial sector, offering communication skills training that is relevant to
face-to-face and telephone situations, as well as e-mail.

Half or full-day courses led by trainers who have worked as Samaritans
volunteers are available, with the full-day costing £1,500 for up to 20 people.

The training will be most useful for customer-facing businesses, including
call centres, helplines and hotels, said Gaynor Hayward, training manager for
The Samaritans, and it can be tailored to particular client needs, such as
dealing with angry customers.

"Our skills deal with emotions through listening, but it’s more than
just listening," said Hayward. "It’s effective or active listening
[that is most useful], and that’s tied to effective questioning and the ability
to empathise.

"By empathising, you can calm the situation, get at the problem and
work out solutions," she said.

The Consumer Credit Counselling Service used The Samaritans to provide
training for its workforce of around 200 staff in telephone-based roles,
according to its training co-ordinator Emily Marosi. "There are certain
situations where we can’t communicate with people and get to the issue of their
debt problems because of their emotional problems," she said. "The objective
was to enhance call-handling ability and develop skills for dealing with anger
and aggression or clients who cry."

Training for a peer support system was also worked into the training, said
Marosi. "If you take an emotional or distressing call, it’s natural to
need to offload that and gain some support."

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