Just read the title of this piece: “How a Personality Test Designed to Pick Astronauts is Taking the Pain Out of Customer Support.”
If you know the personality type of the person you’re speaking with, Kahler explained, you can modify your own communication style to work more effectively with them, prevent misunderstandings, and avoid inadvertently pushing the other person’s buttons.
For example, a “Workaholic” personality type is all about the facts. When they call support, they want to focus on the task at hand and blaze through the call as quickly as possible. For them, small talk is nothing but a time suck. A customer service rep who starts chitchatting in a well-meaning effort to establish rapport will only put the caller in a foul mood, which will poison the rest of the interaction. “Reactors,” on the other hand, are all about relationships. A customer service rep who doesn’t acknowledge their feelings will make them feel cold and shut off.
The personality assessment and communication model has been used everywhere from professional coaching to psychotherapy. At NASA, Kahler worked with staff psychiatrists to help develop a model that could predict which astronaut candidates would be best capable of handling the tasks required on space missions. “Persister” types, who strive for perfection and encourage others to reach their peak performance, were identified as the best fit and have historically made up the majority of personality types in the program. The prognosis for “Dreamers,” on the other hand, who tend to be sensitive, shy, and introverted, was dismal, and few if any ever made it into space. (See p. 2 of this document for a description of the six types and their use in the space program.)
In call centers, eLoyalty’s system uses the PCM framework to compile a personality profile of each caller from the moment they first contact the center. The system, which is automated, analyzes the caller’s language patterns and other behavioral cues to identify their personality type. (A team of 250 linguists, behavioral scientists, and statisticians have compiled a massive set of linguistic libraries and behavioral algorithms to parse callers’ every word and mode of expression.)
Each time the customer calls back, the system uses the existing profile to steer them to a customer service representative who’s the best match for their personality type, and it continues to analyze their subsequent conversations to deepen and enrich their profile.