It may sound like a simple rule, like something we’re taught in elementary school to increase our listening comprehension skills in our crucial developing years. When I mean being a good listener, I don’t mean just listening well enough to take ample notes in class just to recite them on an exam later. I’m referring to listening in order to understand – essentially comprehension, but taking it to the next level when a customer has an issue. Nobody wants to see this scenario unfold, but applying some simple listening tips can make the experience turn out better for you and your customer.
In my years in customer service (over 10 years), which involves retail and call center environments, I’ve learned a lot along the way about interacting with the life source of any business: the consumer. They’re our blood and and breath, and really our reason for existence. Failing to listen to what they need can be a recipe for a not-so-tasty supper.
I learned some valuable listening tips when I was working in the call center. This training, I believe, can be applied to not only a telephone sales environment, but any kind of business, especially if the customer encounters a problem (which we always strive to avoid!). Taking a good listen is key to having a happier customer.
Again, there is a vast different between simply hearing and listening – truly digesting their words, listening intently with no distractions and empathizing. To be a good listener you must clarify, summarize, empathize and resolve.
Let’s talk a little about each point:
Clarify. I’ve found that in order to help the consumer the best, the first steps is to clarify the issue. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get a better picture of what is going on. Was it something that could have been prevented? Was there already a solution your customer was unaware of?
Summarize. I don’t mean reiterate word for word, but by summarizing what your customer just told you shows that you were not merely nodding and smiling. You took the time to show them you listened and that you want to help. You want to fix it and offer to help as best you and your company can.
Empathize. Validate the emotions the customer is experiencing; let them know you understand. You may feel it on the inside, but showing it on the outside lets the customer know what’s going on in your head (and heart, of course).
Resolve. Offer to make it right, however it’s fit for your business to do so.
Being a good listener doesn’t only apply to actual in-person conversations; it can be applied to responding to guest reviews on travel sites like Tripadvisor as well. Always respond promptly and offer for the customer to call and further resolve any issues, because no one likes an un-pretty review.
If they’re telling you what a great job your company is doing, express some gratitude! Responding to positive reviews is just as important as responding to mediocre or negative ones.
No matter what type of review it is, be thorough with your responses and make it personal. They chose your company to do business with; now give them a reason to do it again.
Sometimes saying “sorry” isn’t enough in today’s market. You have to stand out from the crowd and by tuning up your listening skills, you may be off to a good start.
Kimberly Moore is the Creative Marketing Manager for H.I. Development Corporation.