There’s a lot of talk in the business world about listening to customers. Setting goals? Listen to your customers. Developing a product? Listen to your customers. Want to create a more focused mission statement? Listen to your customers!
But what about listening on a smaller day-to-day level? Actually taking the time to listen to the customer who is in front of you or on the phone? Often, this can be more difficult than the big picture stuff because we are busy with to-do lists, meetings, etc. How many times have you been in a rush and accidentally spoken over a customer or client? How many times have you gone into your usual ‘thank you so much, have a nice day’ exit speech and missed the visual cues that your customer is giving that signal they have a question or need additional help? The day-to-day interactions we have with our customers are every bit as important as the ‘big’ ideas – perhaps even more so.
It’s important to remember that listening is not hearing. Hearing is passive. It’s possible to sit in a busy coffee shop with lots of noise surrounding you and work on a project. Why? Because while you are hearing the clanging dishes and conversations of people, you aren’t listening. Listening is a much more active than hearing, and it takes some skill.
Here are some helpful ways to show your clients and customers that you are listening to them:
- Don’t interrupt! This one is simple. If your customer is speaking, you are quiet and listening. You will always have your chance to speak.
- Give them physical and verbal feedback. Nod your head, lean in, make natural eye contact. Phrases like, “I understand,” “Please, go on,” and “That’s helpful,” demonstrate that you are listening.
- Paraphrase back to the customer both to clarify that you have heard them correctly and to acknowledge that you are listening.
- Ask questions related to what your customer has told you. Ask intelligent questions about what your customer has relayed to you. Stay on subject to show that you are engaged.
- Summarize. When it seems your customer is done speaking, then summarize the main points of the conversation aloud to them. This gives the customer a final chance to clarify their point.
- End with a parting question. Once you are sure that your conversation is coming to an end, one final and important question must be asked. Our Founder Donna Cutting teaches that you should take a moment to ask, “While I have you here, is there anything else I can do for you?” This is another opportunity for your customer to give you an idea of how you can serve them better.
Do you have ideas on how you and your staff can better listen to your customers! We’d love to hear them in the comments below!
Brandi Hand, Queen of Visibility, Red-Carpet Learning Systems
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