Most times companies hire staff, train them on Customer Service and deploy them to the field to carry out their various service functions, without giving appropriate attention to the very essential Customer Service skill of Listening.
Listening, constitutes a great portion of our interaction with Customers, one would have to listen very actively in order to understand what a Customers really wants. Yet most of the time people confuse ‘hearing’ with ‘listening’ and fail to realize that they have completely different meanings.
Hearing is simply the ability to perceive sounds or auditory signals, whereas Listening involves hearing + correctly interpreting the intended meaning(s) of the message transferred by the sender.
The ability to listen actively means;
Messages (enquiries/complaints) are better understood – thus they can be handled more efficiently
Communication breakdowns between Customers and Service reps are mitigated – this will give your brand the perception of having a smart work force and thus improves the confidence a Customer has in your ability to solve problems.
Improved Customer Satisfaction – When Customers have their enquiries clarified or complaints effectively resolved, they feel satisfied with your services and this does wonders to brand perception.
Fewer mistakes occur – Communication breakdown most times leads to mistakes, which might lead to a waste of resources (human & material), when staff are trained to listen properly, such mistakes won’t occur as often.
Improved productivity – Time wasted in remediating errors from communication breakdown or resources wasted due to such errors impacts negatively on the overall productivity of a company or specific unit.
How can they Listen effectively you ask?
Listening effectively is something that can be learned, teach your staff to do the following and in time effectively listening would be a part of them:
Is there an available seat? Offer the Customer seat & lean forwards the speaker (not in an eerie manner), this enables you to hear better & shows you are eager to hear what the Customer has to say.
E.g. “Sir, If I’m correct, you’d like to exchange your…” or “You would like us to migrate your new account to ___ is that correct?”.
When you are listening to someone speaking on the phone, make use of filler words like “I see”, “Alright” “mm hmm”, just to let the speaker know you’re still on the line and that you’re paying attention, sometimes shutting your eyes can aid you listen better, try scribbling down keywords to enable you build a clearer picture of the message.
Try as much as possible to avoid getting irritated by; the speaker’s accent, speech pace, mannerisms or habits that might distract you from essence of the message being communicated.
As you actively practice these steps over time, you’d become better and more proficient at listening, people will find easier to communicate to you and you’ll discover that the Listening skill, is important not just in Customer Service but in interpersonal relationships as well.