In my work time I’m a serious business woman, enthusiastic project manager and studious programmer. From 9-5, I have a careful facade that hides that I’m actually a crazy guinea pig lady. It’s not that I’m not passionate about my job — it’s just that I’m also passionate in my love for guinea pigs, and as soon as I clock out, I go back to talking about them more than anyone else on the planet wants to hear about them. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when my business partner Julie, a person with a more normal amount of love for guinea pigs, suggested I should write a blog post about why guinea pigs are the perfect pet for business people!
I’ve been raising guinea pigs since I was about eight years old, and decades later, I still keep them. To be more accurate, right now I have one (Mr. Truffle is afraid of other guinea pigs due to some pet store traumas, otherwise I’d never keep a lone guinea pig — they’re very social little animals! Oh wait, I’m supposed to be writing a business guide, not a pet owner’s manual…)
Mr. Truffle is a welcome member of my work team and spends his time in my home office during the day. But in this case, it’s not (just) because I’m a crazy guinea pig lady. Guinea pigs are valuable teaching tools for sales people, managers, and anyone who needs a good phone manner.
One thing I’ve learned about guinea pigs is that many of them love to talk, and in guinea pig culture, you don’t take turns talking. It’s polite for everyone to talk at once, so long as everyone is agreeing. Your job as a guinea pig is to emotionally mirror the other members of your herd — if Bob says he is feeling nervous, you should immediately agree that you too are nervous. If Sally says she is happy about all these wonderful juicy vegetables she is eating, as a guinea pig, you should immediately agree that you love juicy vegetables too! This is a bonding behavior, meant to make you all feel closer as a herd. (This works with humans, too, except that we have to take turns when talking.)
When I first went into business and had to make sales calls or calls to difficult clients, I really struggled to keep the anxiety out of my voice on the phone. And if one of my talkative guinea pigs was in the room, I noticed that they too would suddenly start to express anxiety. It gave me immediate feedback when I was failing to keep my voice even and confident, and allowed me to quickly adjust. I’d know when I’d achieved a cheerful, helpful tone, because the pigs in the peanut gallery would start to talk about how happy they were feeling, too.
If you have a guinea pig and they like to chat, bring them with you when you’re making phone calls. They’ll tell you in real-time whether you’re nailing your phone manner, or if you are accidentally expressing frustration, boredom, or even fear to your clients and sales prospects.
There you have it: better customer service through guinea pigs!