Everyone who has ever worked in a customer service capacity knows that we won’t always have the ability or resources to solve every customer problem we encounter. What we can do each and every time we speak with a customer is offer them our attention, by listening to their needs in an engaged manner and responding appropriately.
Listening forms the foundation of any effective customer service interaction, and it is one of the most powerful tools available for turning a negative experience into a positive one.
Research has shown that both participants in a conversation feel better when they perceive the other party is engaged in active listening, meaning that it has the potential to increase satisfaction for both customers and employees.
Here are a few ways that listening is important to customer service:
The absence of empathy is a prominent cause of service failure plaguing many organizations. When customers don’t believe that a representative is truly engaged in trying to understand their problem, they’re much more likely to walk away.
When customer service professionals assume they know what a customer is feeling instead of listening for the language and cues that can truly signal the customer’s underlying emotions, empathy is impossible to achieve.
Active listening techniques, such as eye contact and body language, can signal to the customer that we are engaged in the conversation and help us empathize with the customer by mirroring their presence and relating to their state.
When service breakdowns do occur, every company dreams of using the experience as an opportunity for service recovery (which can leave the customer with more positive feelings than if no issue had occurred).
Many times, when a customer is explaining what went wrong and what they expect, service employees can read between the lines of the conversation and determine exactly what it will take to “wow” them and win them back.
We just need to remember that the first step in customer service listening is to stop speaking.
Customer service conversations shouldn’t be about us, our skills, our organizations, or our products; they should always be about the customer’s experience.
Committing our full attention throughout the conversation keeps the focus squarely on the customer and ensures that the interaction proceeds with their needs as the primary driver.
Miscommunication breeds frustration and what may seem like a harmless error to us could be the last straw for a customer who feels like nothing is going their way.
Proactively listening to our customer before taking action allows us to gather all of the information we need to help prevent miscommunication and the resulting service issues that come from not understanding what the customer is trying to tell us.
One of the most powerful ways to improve the performance of our teams is to train our team members to not only listen carefully but to document what they’ve learned from their conversations with customers. Our customers are our best source for details about our successes and failures and often it is the unscripted, unstructured feedback data that provides the best insights into the experience we are providing.
Often some of our best data comes from conversations on the front lines that are recorded in our CRM — and that data is only as strong as the listening skills of the rep having the conversation.Listening is at the heart of most effective customer interactions. Train your teams accordingly. Click To Tweet
Listening is a crucial part of customer service interactions and training. Making sure that our teams have the listening skills necessary is an essential part of the tool box they need to succeed with customers.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.