Customer Service - Keys to the Art of Listening

Necessary skills for customer satisfaction

Last week I spoke to a 25-year veteran in the customer service industry -- I’ll call him Sam. Sam handles the toughest technology service calls. He gets customers after the first round of customer service reps couldn’t help. When he gets a customer they're upset, frustrated and often down right angry. Not only does he deal with hostility, but at times has more than one customer at a time on a call.

"I used to take [the hostility] personally," he said. "But I learned it wasn’t me. They’re frustrated and they just want someone to take care of their problem."

How does he calm them down? “First, I listen.”

Seven Key Listening Skills

Listening is the key ingredient to communication--and customer service. Actively listening means focusing on a person (or customer) and truly understanding their message.

“Most people aren't natural listeners, let alone trained in the art of listening,” says Adrian Miller in his article Teaching Customer Service Reps the Art of Listening.

In his article he provides a number of skills necessary good listeners should develope and pratice. Some of them include:

• Avoid distractions. Treat the conversation you're having as the most important of the day.

• Concentrate on what the customer is saying rather than thinking about what you want to say next.

• Don't interrupt, at least until an appropriate amount of time has passed.

• Become attuned to tone of voice and inflection; these can be as telling as the words themselves.

• Occasionally repeat what the customer has said. It lets them know you're on the same page (and it lets you know too.) 

• Ask for clarification if something is vague.

• Take notes to remember the customer's key points

This list may seem long, but anyone can become a good listener. It just takes a little practice, and we have conversations throughout the day, where we can hone our skills. 

Listening is Customer Service

The more I talked to Sam, the more it became apparent that without mastering the art of listening, it was difficult to provide cusotmers the right solutions. Truly listening meant not only hearing the words, but also practicing empathy. It meant quieting, focusing on them, and understanding their problem. By doing this, customers understood Sam was on their side, working with them to the find the answer.

And isn’t that the definition of customer service? 

If you are interested in more information on customer service, visit our Customer Service Training Solutions page.