You already know that listening is one of the most important customer service skills, but it’s far more complex than simply hearing what your customer is saying. Effective listening is also about making the client feel heard. Here are five things you can do to improve your customer service listening skills in either face-to-face interactions or over the phone.
- Commit to Listen Well. Improvement is as simple as setting an intention. When you decide that you want to improve your listening skills, you’ll pay closer attention and see results immediately.
- Engage in Self-Reflection. Many strategies to improve customer service skills are universal, but others need to be more personalized. Every customer service provider is unique and has its own set of strengths and challenges; spend some time reflecting on your biggest barriers to listening well and develop personalized solutions. Do you find you’re easily distracted? Turn off notifications on your phone when you visit a customer in person, and close extraneous windows, tabs, or apps on your computer when speaking with a customer on the phone. If you struggle to remember details of a customer’s complaint, take notes so you don’t ask them to repeat the information they’ve already provided.
- Wait for a Pause to Ask Questions. Nobody likes to be interrupted. Even if you’re on task and asking a relevant question, it will feel dismissive to the customer if you cut them off in the middle of their explanation. Instead, listen attentively as the customer speaks and wait for a natural pause to insert any clarifying questions or to issue instructions.
- Summarize and Ask for Confirmation. Summarizing the client’s complaint is an important step in the listening process. Not only does it make the customer feel heard, but it also ensures that you understand exactly why they need help. Take your summary one step further by inviting the customer to validate whether your interpretation is correct. This is done overtly: “Your email stopped syncing to your phone yesterday afternoon after an update, and we need to get it up and running again. Do I have that correct?” This gives the customer confidence that they have effectively relayed their problem to you, and if not, allows them to correct you before wasting time-solving the wrong problem.
- Let the Customer be Right. As the assumed expert in the conversation, it can feel like you need to have all the answers right away. Don’t let your need to maintain a certain appearance sideline your ability to listen effectively: Don’t make assumptions and tune out the customer mid-conversation in favor of working on a solution, don’t hesitate to ask clarifying questions, and don’t get defensive if the customer gives you negative feedback. Put aside your pride and focus on what the customer is trying to tell you so you can do your job more effectively.
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