Stephen R. Covey, the inspirational businessman and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
That’s an important distinction, particularly if you work in the telecommunications industry like we do. It seems so simple—just stay quiet while someone else is talking so that you hear what they’re actually saying. But the truth of the matter is that really listening is not that simple. We too often listen while already formulating our reply rather than intently listening to make sure we are receiving the full extent of what the person is trying to convey.
The other problem is that everyone listens from their own perspective or frame of reference. For example, if a customer called a service provider and said, “You let me down when you didn’t show up on time” one person might hear that as, “That was inconvenient, please be on time.” Another person, however, might hear the same phrase and interpret it as “I’ll no longer do business with you.” From those different interpretations, the conversations could then go in very different directions.
In addition, we’ve all been guilty of being distracted while trying to listen to a customer, or selectively listening to a conversation. But our customers can tell when we’re reacting without first hearing them, or when we’re distracted, and this makes them feel less valued and erodes trust.
To really listen and hear what you’re customers are telling you, practice these 4 active listening techniques:
- Be empathetic: “I can see why our failure to show up when we said we would was frustrating for you. I would expect the same courtesy of being on time and so should you.”
- Repeat what they say and offer the next step: “So, what I’m hearing you say is that it was frustrating when our serviceman showed up at 10:25 rather than 10:00. We will plan for this to not happen again, but should unexpected delays in scheduling happen in the future would it be helpful to call you ahead of or at the scheduled time to give you the option to reschedule the service call if need be?”
- Ask questions for deeper understanding: “Is there a time of day or day of the week that’s more flexible for you?”
- Take your time: Especially during tough conversations, take the time to get to the root of the issue and find a solution that’s agreeable for both parties. Customers are much more forgiving of any grievances when they feel that they’ve been really listened to in a way that validates how they felt. And it’s precisely this kind of customer service that builds loyalty, even if your serviceman showed up late.
Voice Link of Columbus, Inc. makes sure that your customers are heard loud and clear 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Our team has nearly 30 years of experience in full-service telecommunication solutions and provides live answering services that will exceed your expectations. We offer plans on a monthly basis, for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. Request information online or call us at (866) 758-5628 for a free consultation.