Effective Listening Skills for Understanding Customers

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  • 0:04 What Is Effective Listening?
  • 1:30 Showing the Customer Empathy
  • 2:21 Acknowledging the Customer
  • 3:22 Consequences of Poor Listening
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Arielle Rose

Arielle has taught Business and Customer Service as well has Master's degree in Business Administration.

This lesson gives you a brief review of the importance of effective listening for the customer service field. It covers how to practice effective listening by showing empathy and acknowledging the customer, as well as some possible consequences if you don't.

What Is Effective Listening?

Imagine that it's Saturday morning and the new cable system you ordered was just installed. You did a standard walk through with the tech and even checked your tablet to make sure the wireless Internet worked. You're happy, so you the tech on her way. It's not until later that day that you realize you can't connect to the Internet in your bedroom. You call the cable company to complain, and after being on hold for several minutes, the rep comes to the line and says, 'Thank you for calling, how can I help you?'

You respond, telling her everything that happened, then she just says, 'Can I get your name and account number?'

You verify your account, then she asks 'How can I help you?' By this time you're really frustrated. What's happening here is a failure in effective listening.

Effective Listening is the act of being 100% engaged when someone is speaking. It does not mean using the time the customer speaks to think of a response; it is taking in information from the speaker and then following up with feedback on what was said. In the customer service field, the greater the level of effective listening, the better at serving and anticipating a customer's needs. In customer service, effective listeners make customers feel that they are not only heard but also understood.

In our example, the customer service rep made two mistakes:

  1. She completely ignored you when you initially explained the problem
  2. She asked you to repeat yourself after the verification process

Protocol is important, but hospitality towards the customer is always first priority.

Showing the Customer Empathy

The fix for the first mistake is easy. When a customer calls in with a complaint or an issue, show empathy by apologizing. Though you may feel that you are admitting fault, what you are actually doing is acknowledging the fact that your customer is having a bad experience.

Another benefit of an apology is putting the customer at ease. Showing empathy not only de-escalates the situation but makes the customer feel heard and important. It gives them the feeling that they matter and that finally they have reached someone who cares enough to help them. When the customer's complaint is not acknowledged, the customer begins to feel ignored and frustrated.

A simple apology like, 'I am so sorry to hear about that, as soon as I can get you verified, we will work together to find a solution to your problem,' not only shows empathy, it also alerts the customer of the verification process as well as reassures the customer that you want to resolve their issue.

Acknowledging the Customer

In our example, the representative's second mistake was asking how she could help after you'd already explained the whole problem. Once you were verified, the rep should have attempted to paraphrase and repeat what she understood of your complaint. A simple, 'So let me see if I understand you correctly…' would have sufficed.

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