The importance of listening in customer service

In human communications, problems aren’t usually due to the message or the medium, but rather to the receiver. Indeed, it is much harder than we think to actually understand a message. Of course, we can all understand the words, but how many of us truly understand the meaning?

Our advisors are trained to solve problems in five simple steps: listen, understand, reassure, thank, and commit. You’ll notice that listening is the first step in the list. There’s a simple reason for that: how can we understand our client if we don’t listen to their problem? How can we know how to put their mind at ease if we don’t understand their state of mind?

The quality of customer service rests entirely on our ability to understand what the client wants. Truly understanding what they want is the first step in the success of our intervention.

If you’re not sure your listening skills are all they could be, don’t despair; listening is an art that can be practiced, and mastered!

Here are a few tricks to develop your active listening skills:

  • Never interrupt the client.  Wait, be patient, relax. Sometimes, we’re tempted to jump in with a solution after their first few words. But we have to control the urge, because unfortunately, we’re not adept at telepathy. Never try to pre-empt what the client is about to say. Wait until they finish their explanation; you’ll be surprised how often their first few thoughts aren’t an accurate reflection of the entire problem.
  • Just 7% of communication is done with words; where does the other 93% come in? Right before your eyes! The non-verbal part of the message is often just as important as the verbal one. Does your client cross their arms every time you bring up process overhauls? They may need reassurance about your approach.
  • Memory is fallible: effective listening involves effective note-taking. Take the time to jot down the key points of your conversation, so that you’ll remember the whole conversation, from A to Z.
  • Avoid multi-tasking. No-one can truly understand a message while answering an email. You may hear the words, but you won’t understand the meaning.

Effective listening skills are the basis of any good client relationship. Listening seems so obvious that we sometimes neglect it, even though it makes the difference between success and failure. In fact, your listening skills can give you a competitive advantage, since you’ll be able to understand clients’ needs like no-one else.

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