Listening is a skill – and not everyone has refined their active listening skills. Instead, they think about what they will say next or find their minds drifting off to a different topic. That isn’t always a train smash, but active listening in customer service is a must. In active listening, you don’t just listen to the words, but you search for meaning.
As a skill, it’s possible to learn active listening and keep practising it until you have it down to a fine art. In this article, we’ll look at active listening techniques you can put into practice right away, but first, let’s look at the reasons why you and your customers will benefit from active listening.
Why is Active Listening Important in Customer Service?
Mastering active listening techniques will make you a better communicator. You’ll understand people better and be quicker to help them get the answers they’re looking for. If there’s any form of tension, listening actively will help to defuse the situation. Because your customers will notice that you’re giving them your full attention, they will feel respected and valued.
Finally, when you’re making an effort to fully understand your clients and are demonstrating interest in their welfare through active listening, you will come across as being likeable, understanding, and efficient. The bottom line? Your efforts improve customer satisfaction and help you to build better customer relationships.
Active Listening Techniques
Before we dive deeper into active listening techniques, let’s set the stage for action. There is no way you can create an impression of active listening if you aren’t really doing it. Begin by being present in the moment and stay focused.
When you’re communicating remotely, discipline yourself to concentrate. Don’t play around with your mobile phone. If you’re working on a computer, minimise or close anything that isn’t necessary for the interaction. Even if your customer can’t see you, they will receive subtle signals if your attention is wandering away from them – and you’ll be less likely to grasp everything they’re saying.
Show That You’re Listening
If you’re meeting in person, maintain eye contact and use body language signals like nodding when appropriate. Minimal responses such as making affirmative or encouraging sounds from time to time also show you’re “with” your customer and are following their message
Set Aside Bias and be Patient
It takes conscious effort to set aside bias. Do so because it can interfere with your listening. For example, if an elderly lady calls tech support, you may be tempted to assume that she isn’t very tech-literate and be inwardly groaning at the “waste of time” you’re about to experience. Never underestimate your clients because of bias.
There will be occasions when you have to spend a lot of time talking to a client to discover the real reasons why they got in touch with you. Let them take their time and don’t let your mind wander. There could be very important facts concealed in between what may sound like irrelevant information.
Great listeners never, ever interrupt. Even if you think you know what the customer wants or needs, allow them to finish speaking before you talk. And keep your mind tuned in to what they’re saying even if you believe you already have the answers. You may have jumped to the wrong conclusion.
If your customer has a lot to say or is reporting on an extended process that led them up to the current point in time, feel free to jot down a few little notes so that they don’t have to repeat themselves.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
If, after listening to your customer, you feel in need of more information, encourage them to talk freely by asking open-ended questions. This might give you more context than the answers to simple “yes” or “no” questions.
Make sure that you fully understand what your customer is saying by summing up what they just told you. Paraphrasing as an example of active listening in customer service might look something like this: “I understand that your subscription wasn’t renewed on the 1st and you would like us to activate your account immediately, Mrs Jones. Is that correct?”
Since Mrs Jones may have added a lot of peripheral information, you need to make sure that you grasped her situation and what she wants you to do about it. Paraphrasing helps her to know what you’ve understood so that she can add any other information she wants you to take into account.
Showing that you not only understood what your customer said to you but also how they felt is an important part of active listening. Remember, emotions are part of any message and people want to know that you understand how they feel too. There is a lot of value in saying things like “I understand that you’re feeling frustrated.” It builds the bond between you and your customer.
Active Listening Exercises
There are various active listening exercises that you can do alone or with a group of other people. For example, a group of people can each answer the same question from their perspective. As a member of the group, the challenge is to focus on what’s being said rather than on what your answer to the question will be.
However, building good habits takes practice, and you probably won’t be on an active listening course or in group activities every single day. Evaluate your progress with active listening by giving yourself a little assessment after each interaction with customers.
- Focus your full attention on the customer?
- Allow them to speak their mind without interrupting or rushing them?
- Work to see the situation and how they felt about it from their point of view?
- Paraphrase to check your understanding?
- Offer an appropriate solution that satisfied your customer?
Rate yourself honestly, and keep using your checklist until active listening techniques are second nature to you.
Active Listening: A Must for Great Customer Service
Active listening is an excellent skill that will help you in interpersonal relationships of every kind. When it comes to your customer service, it’s an absolute must. Have you ever got the feeling you just aren’t being listened to? It’s infuriating. Customers have the right to expect your customer service agents to take an interest in their experiences with your business.
As you’ll have noticed, active listening takes focus. If you have a hundred other things to do, you’ll struggle with it no matter how hard you try. That’s why dedicated, professional customer service agents are essential to any business. When it comes to remote communication, you’re already losing some of the personal touch and active listening becomes even more important. It’s essential that your customers shouldn’t feel like “just another caller.” That takes a lot of skill – and the right people.
At RSVP, we offer you just that: a ready-to-go customer service team that has already mastered the art of active listening, practises it consistently, and represents your business as well, and even better than any in-house team can. Our London-based customer service and support team is at your service. Ready to uplift the quality of the customer service your business offers? Eager to build relationships and improve customer experiences? Contact us today and do it the smart way with RSVP.