Communication is the most important tool for any social interaction. Humans being social animals, cannot thrive without communication.
There are various forms of communication; talking, listening, body language, expressions, etc.
But one of the most important forms of communication is listening.
Listening sounds like an easy thing to do, after all, we do it every day. But, only less than 2% of the population have any sort of formal training on ‘how to listen’.
So, as you can imagine, it’s a very scarce skill set.
For any form of effective communication to take place, it’s important that you understand what the other person is saying.
For this, you have to listen, and listen wholeheartedly.
This is especially true in a business setting between a customer and a customer service agent.
This is where active listening comes in.
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What is active listening?
Active listening is a listening technique that keeps you actively engaged with the person you’re communicating with.
So, as you can imagine, this is a very important skill to possess for your customer service agents.
Active listening is all about being attentive, patient, non-judgemental, and empathetic towards the customers.
The customers should feel that their issues are being heard and their concerns are being appreciated.
Active listening in customer service means being 100% focussed on what the customer is saying and responding accordingly.
Some attributes of active listening can be listed as:
- Patient, attentive and non-interrupting
- Actively hearing someone as opposed to passively
- Non-judgemental and non-combative attitude
- Verbal and non-verbal communication (smile, eye contact, leaning in, etc.)
- Clarifying questions should be asked
- Reflection on the conversation
Importance of active listening in customer service
The most important reason to build skills for active listening in customer service is a simple fact that customers want to be heard.
Whenever customers call and feel that their queries aren’t being listened to, it leads to a negative customer experience. This is always a bad thing.
With active listening, your customer service agents can build the foundation for a meaningful conversation.
Active listening can help your customer service agents to make a positive experience for your customers as they will feel that their concerns and issues are really being addressed.
Irrespective of the outcome, your customers will take home the fact that their queries were given the proper validation they deserved.
This simple act of actively listening to your customers will make them feel valued and looked after, enhancing their customer experience with you.
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Here are 7 benefits of active listening in customer services
1. Customers will be heard
As stated earlier, customers call to be heard. They want their grievances to be acknowledged. This is when the skill of active listening for customer service can be an asset.
A customer service agent who actively listens to their customers will be better able to resolve issues as the agent will be focused only on the customers’ needs and wants.
2. Increases empathy
If you don’t listen to your customers you won’t be able to empathize with them. Empathizing with your customers is a technique that is intrinsically tied in with delivering enhanced customer care.
If you cannot actively listen, empathizing with your customers can be an uphill battle.
It’s never a good thing to have a conversation by going in with pre-conceived notions.
Active listening gives out a message to the customers that you’re fully engaged with them and are empathetic towards their queries.
3. Active listening as a customer feedback tool
Gathering data through long-term active listening is an important strategy for improving your business operations.
Customers are the best source of information for finding out about an organization’s gaps and failings.
Their feedback is unscripted, one of the best types of feedback while gathering insights into the experiences provided by the company.
Active listening can create an image of the company’s successes and shortcomings.
Customer service agents with skills to utilize active listening as a tool can document insights on what’s working for the company and what’s not.
4. Reduce miscommunication
An important reason for a negative customer experience is miscommunication.
It is a very serious mistake for any customer service agent to make.
Miscommunication can be the final straw that can make a customer leave your company.
This can have a long-lasting negative impression of your company in the market.
Actively listening to a customer before responding and taking action is an exercise that needs to be practiced by your customer service agents.
Just taking a small breather before responding to the customer can help prevent a miscommunication episode that could potentially lead to an angry customer walking away from your company.
5. Active listening as a product/service measuring tool
In the same manner that active listening can be used as a customer feedback tool, it can also be used to gauge how customers view your products and services.
By practicing active listening skills, customer service agents should be able to gain insight into which products or services are working for the organization and which ones aren’t.
These insights could then be incorporated into future marketing strategies.
6. Better resolve experience for the customer
Customer service agents sometimes try to rush through their conversations with a customer before hearing about the whole issue.
This can come across as rude or clinical at the very least. This is also one of the reasons why miscommunications happen.
Active listening and being empathetic with your customers is the best way to help them.
Just giving them time and a patient ear will make their customer experience a better one.
7. Keeps focus on the customer
As you know, customer service should be customer–centric.
Active listening keeps that in mind and will help the customers according to their wishes.
Active listening will make the customer service agent aware of the wants and needs of the customer which in turn will help the agent provide seamless and better customer service for them.
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12 tips to improve your active listening in customer service
Now that you know about the benefits of active listening in customer service, here are 12 tips on how to work on and improve your active listening skills.
1. Create two-way dialogues
Show the customer that you are listening and engaged with the conversation by interjecting appropriate statements such as, ‘I see’, ‘I understand’, etc.
This will reassure the customer that you are really listening.
2. Never interrupt
Never interrupt customers while they’re still talking. It will come across as rude and show them that you don’t care about their issues.
3. Be empathetic
As stated before, being empathetic and having a positive customer experience go hand in hand.
You can’t have one without the other. This can’t be said enough times.
A part of active listening is being able to empathize with the customers. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes will go a long way in enhancing your customers’ experience.
4. Avoid distractions
Try to avoid distractions as much as possible when you’re having an interaction with a customer.
Decluttering your work environment, like a clean desk, fewer tabs open on your computer, etc. can help you to focus on the task at hand, your customer.
Repeat and paraphrase what the customer is saying. This will show that you’re listening and also clarify anything that you might have misunderstood or misheard.
This is one surefire way to minimize miscommunication.
6. Ask questions
Use a mix of open-ended, closed, probing, and clarifying questions.
This will help your customer service agent get to the bottom of your customer’s issues more efficiently.
7. Be calm
Since the customer service agent is the first line of contact for the customers, they will try to take out their frustrations on the agents.
In such a situation, avoid arguing or being defensive. That could escalate the situation even further and eventually make the customer walk away from your company.
8. Build trust
Empathize with your customers. Talk to them in a friendly tone and manner.
Let the customers know that you’re doing all that you can to resolve their issues.
Make them feel that you’re working for them and with them instead of against them.
9. Don’t let your thoughts race ahead
Don’t let your thoughts race ahead and try to come up with solutions while the customer is still talking.
You can miss out on the finer details of the conversation when you do this and then have problems while trying to resolve their issue.
Give your undivided attention when you’re listening to the customer
Take notes while you’re talking with your customers.
In fact, letting them know that you’re taking notes will reinforce the belief that you really are listening to the customer.
Taking notes will help you gather the information that can help resolve the customers’ issues in a more methodical way without bothering the customer with follow-up questions.
11. Use positive language
Always try to use positive language and statements. It makes the conversation sound less harsh and stressful.
For example, instead of saying, ‘don’t close that’, you can say, ‘try to keep that open’.
12. Be human
Try to relate with the customers by being more ‘human’. Don’t come across as a cold and clinical answering machine.
By being more like a person and less like an impersonal business transaction, you will be able to gain your customers’ trust.
Data generated by customer service agents through interactions with your customers can be integrated with data from marketing and sales to create better customer profiles and marketing strategies to enhance customer experience.
Develop your active listening skills
Kapture can help your employees work on their active listening skills by helping design custom training modules for your employees to make them aware of the importance of listening skills in customer services through Kapture’s learning management system.
About the Author
|Elvis Richard Cormuz
|Elvis hails from Darjeeling and has had vibrant work life experiences – a musician, social worker and freelance translator/transcriber, his hobbies include music, movies and reading.