Listening is the most important skill any customer service agent can have. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said “We have 2 ears and one mouth, so as to listen twice as much as we speak”.
The average person is able to effectively retain about 25% of what they hear. But by utilizing listening techniques, you can increase that percentage to 85% or 95%.
People can intelligently decipher words at a rate of up to 500 words per minute, most of us only speak at 125 words per minute making our brains wander easily during a conversation with a customer.
So how can we listening effectively? We need to H.E.A.R.
When getting onto the phone with or speaking in-person with a customer, Pay attention. Hear what they are saying by listening to their words and how they use them. Gauge how they are feeling (happy, angry, frustrated) by their tone and pace of conversation and take note. The way the customer is feeling will change the way to speak with them.
When your listening to your customers, don’t ever prepare a rebuttal during a conversation, this is a distraction from you actually listening and understanding what their concerns are.
Customers are calling you for a reason, put yourself in their shoes and try and understand where they are coming from. This will help to relate their situation to what you have experienced in your past struggles and help you to listen, allowing you to deliver a superior response.
Customers sometimes don’t know how to articulate what they are experiencing or what they really need. Ask yourself this question, What is not being said in the conversation? Is the problem something else then they are describing?
Respond & Reiterate
After you have a good idea of what the customer is communicating to you, respond or clarify and nail down exactly what the customer needs. Respond & reiterate with questions or phrases such as:
“Have i understood you correctly? …”
“It sounds like you are saying … ”
Barriers to Effective Listening
Using H.E.A.R is incredibly effective when done right, but their are things you need to avoid or your ability to effectively listen will diminish significantly even when following H.E.A.R.
- Judging and assuming you know the answer
- Treating a conversation as a competition of knowledge
- Trying to impress the customer
- Reacting to red flag words without listening first