Improving Customer Service With Active Listening Skills

Imrpoving Customer Service With Active Listening SkillsImproving Customer Service With Active Listening Skills

Delivering excellent customer service to your internal and external customers requires strong interpersonal communication skills, especially in the area of listening.

  • Listening effectively is the primary means that many customer service representatives use during communication to determine the needs of their customers. Many times, these needs are not communicated to you directly but through inferences, indirect comments, or nonverbal signals. A skilled listener will pick up on a customer’s words and these cues or nuances and, then conduct follow-up questioning or probe deeper to determine the real need.
  • Most employees take listening skills for granted in a customer service environment. They incorrectly assume that anyone can listen effectively. Unfortunately, this is untrue. This is why many employees who deal with customers are complacent about listening and only go through the motions of listening.
  • True listening is an active learned process, as opposed to hearing, which is the physical action of gathering sound waves through the ear canal. When you listen actively, you go through a process consisting of various phases …. hearing or receiving the message, attending, comprehending or assigning meaning, and responding.
  • For information and strategies for developing and using effective listening skills and what you can do to more effectively interact with your customers, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Active Listening – Your Key to Customer Service Success

Active Listening - Your Key to Customer Service Success

Active Listening – Your Key to Customer Service Success

Customer service success should be a primary goal for everyone in an organization. Since there is no organization without satisfied customers, making sure that they are understood and served effectively should be a strategic initiative. That means taking service down to a basic level with each encounter when someone comes into or contacts the organization. An easy way to help accomplish this is by training all employees to use of active listening during face-to-face and telephone interactions with customers.

Like other customer service skills, active listening is a learned process. Many people think that because they receive a message through hearing, that they are listening. This is far from true. Hearing is a simple physiological process of gathering sounds through the ear and transmitting them to the brain for analysis. Receiving sounds or messages is just the first step in active listening. Following the receipt of sounds or messages, the brain decides what they mean and what type of response (or inaction) is required.

Active listening is actually one of the most important skills that customer service representatives have for delivering stellar customer service. Even so, it is a topic on which many organizations fail to train employees. Many managers and employees assume that they know how to effectively listen. In reality, only through understanding the active listening process and practicing the skill can customer service representatives improve.

The following are three simple active listening steps that you take to help achieve customer service success.

1. Focus attention on the customer. Stop whatever you are doing that does not relate to serving the customer with you or on the other end of the phone call. This means putting down any technology you are using, stop typing on your computer, putting aside reading material, and really focusing on the customer and what he or she is saying.

2. Display a congenial demeanor. Simply put, this means smiling (even on the phone, since the smile comes through in your tone), looking at the customer as you speak to one another, nodding appropriately, using open physical posture and gestures appropriately and letting them know that you are really listening to what they are saying.

3. Repeat back what you understood them to say. This simple active listening technique involves restating what your customer said in your own words. For example, if a customer said, “I am really upset because I’ve called twice before about this  problem and I still have not received the information I was promised.” In response, you should apologize and emphasize, then repeat what you believe the issue to be before proceeding. For example, “I apologize that you have to keep following up on this issue. I know that must be very frustrating and is a waste of your time. If I understand correctly, you called two of our representatives in the past and were promised ____, but have yet to receive it? Is that correct?” Once they verify, state that you are going to take action to help resolve the issue for them. By taking this approach, you acknowledge and empathize with your customers. You also take responsibility for the situation and promise to correct it.

Active listening is not difficult, but it does take an effort to learn and practice in order to perfect. While you may not get it right every time, you should work to incorporate it as a basic skill in order to achieve customer service success.

For additional ideas on how to improve your active listening skills and better serve your customers, search the topic on this blog. Also, check out Customer Service Skills for Success and How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

4 Customer Service Skills That Can Help Enhance Customer Satisfaction

4 Customer Service Skills That Can Help Enhance Customer Satisfaction

4 Customer Service Skills That

Can Help Enhance Customer Satisfaction

Effective customer service skills that can help enhance customer satisfaction are important for every employee in an organization. However, they are crucial for front-line customer service representatives who are the first contact point for customers. Today’s customer contacts come from many sources:

  • Face-to-face.
  • Over the telephone.
  • Via electronic technology (e.g. chat, Facebook, Twitter or another online platform).

Customer service representatives must have the knowledge and skills required to respond appropriately in a timely manner. Anything less can negatively impact customer satisfaction and could lead to disgruntled customers, increased customer churn and negative word-of-mouth publicity. The latter can be deadly for an organization because in the past research found people with negative experiences often told nine to sixteen of their friends or acquaintances about their experience. With social media and mobile technology, that number jumps exponentially and can be worldwide in a matter of seconds via customer feedback sites like Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. Such websites provide a forum for customers to exchange information and feedback or offer product and service reviews.

What Customer Service Skills that can help enhance customer satisfaction are crucial for organizational success? 

The following are four customer service skills that can help enhance customer satisfaction and increase customer loyalty.

  1. Solid product and service knowledge. Few things are more frustrating for a customer than a customer service representative who lacks the knowledge or available information to answer a question or help resolve an issue with products or services that the customer either has or wants. Successful organizations invest time and money in customer service training for all new employees on all aspects of the organization and what it provides to internal and external customers. If training is not provided, employees should take the initiative to ask questions of peers and supervisors and read available information and manuals. This demonstrates initiative potentially prevents an embarrassing situation in which the customer service representative cannot answer a customer’s questions.
  2. Active Listening Skills. Listening is the most used sense that most people have to gather information in order to formulate a response or make a decision. It is also a skill that is typically not taught in school or on the job, practiced effectively in life, or thought about as being important enough to strive for improvement by most people. Many people assume that they know how to listen simply because they have a normal range of hearing. This is a huge mistake. Hearing is an inactive physiological process of gathering sounds. Active listening involves actively focusing on what is heard and processing that information before formulating an appropriate verbal or non-verbal response. In a customer environment, active listening is a crucial skill and service representatives should continually work to hone and update this talent.
  3. Effective Communication Skills. All customer service representatives must possess effective communication skills and be able to effectively communicate verbally, non-verbally and in writing in order to interact appropriately with customers. These skills take training and practice. In addition to learning how to communicate in different forms, employees should seek feedback on how well they are doing in communicating with others. A simple means for them to find out how others perceive their skills is to ask people who know them and have seen them in action working with customers. By soliciting feedback on their communication skills, they can quickly identify strong and weak areas. In addition to formal communication training in the classroom or via technology, peer and supervisory coaching are two good ways that many organizations provide feedback to employees.
  4. Patience. Some people say that patience is a virtue. That may seem true when dealing with a frustrated, irritated or angry customer. A customer service representative who lacks patience in dealing with customers is likely to encounter more than one situation in which customer-service provider emotions escalate. The result of such encounters can be yelling (verbally or in writing through the use of all capital letters), threats, escalation to a supervisor, negative comments about the organization and employee(s) to others, and potentially, even violence. To ensure that this skill is exercised, many companies train employees to address frustrated or angry customers through roleplay scenarios and offer stress management training. They also empower employees to make decisions so that they do not always have to summon a supervisor in situations when customer issues arise. This can go a long way in helping keep emotional levels low.

There are many things that affect the outcomes of any customer situation. If a customer service representative possesses and uses these four customer service skills that can help enhance customer satisfaction, he or she is likely to be more effective in working with customers.

For more information on effective strategies customer service skills that can help enhance customer satisfaction and help build customer loyalty, research the topic on this blog. Also, check out Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service across Cultures, Customer Service Skills for Success and American Management Association’s self-study course, How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

Effective Listening and Interpersonal Communication Skills for Customer Service Representatives

Effective Listening and Interpersonal Communication Skills for Customer Service Representatives

Effective Listening and Interpersonal Communication Skills

for Customer Service Representatives

Effective listening and interpersonal communication skills for customer service representatives are crucial in ensuring that customers are satisfied and less likely to desert an organization. Many customer service representatives assume that they know how to effectively listen to their customers. After all, don’t they do it every day? The response to that question for many of them is a resounding NO!

What a lot of people who deal with customers think of as listening is actually the physiological process of hearing. In that process, sounds are gathered through the ear and transmitted to the brain. Unless the person then takes time to focus on the context of the message, analyze it and respond appropriately, listening has not occurred.

The following tips can increase customer service effectiveness, help build customer loyalty and satisfaction and aid customer retention.

Learn how to effectively listen to your customers. You can do this by taking the time to read articles and books and attend listening training sessions on the topic.

Identify your own listening abilities and limitations. An easy way to accomplish this is to record yourself interacting with people who you know (e.g. family and friends) in order to hear what they hear during a conversation. If you are not listening and responding appropriately in such instances, you won’t do so with your customers either. Also, ask people you know well to rate you on various aspects of listening (e.g. attending to their messages and responding appropriately to what they said).

Recognize the verbal and nonverbal cues sent by customers. The majority of meaning in a message between two people is derived from the subtle unspoken cues that they send. If you are not familiar with such messages, study the topics to increase your awareness. Then make it a habit to focus on the “whole” message a person is sending to you when interacting face-to-face with them. On the telephone, learn to identify unspoken messages based on rate, pitch, volume, and inflection of their voice or their word choice and emotion.

Use paraphrasing throughout the conversation. By repeating back or summarizing in different ways, what your customer has said periodically, you can ensure that you understood their need or concern correctly before you offer a response or try to assist them. For example, if a customer calls about a defective product that they received, you might paraphrase with something like, “If I understood you correctly, you ordered _____ and when it was delivered, there was a missing part. Is that correct?

Get feedback from the customer. Do not assume that you responded correctly or that the customer is satisfied with your level of service. You want to be known as a person or organization that delivers excellent customer service. To make that happens, pause and ask for validation and approval throughout your interaction with your customer. Use closed-end questions that start with an action verb to get agreement or verification. Examples are:

  • Did I summarize your concern correctly?
  • Does what I said help you with this issue?
  • Is there anything else that I can help you with?

Realize that each culture communicates differently. There are entire books, training programs, higher education courses and conferences designed around the topic of intercultural communication. Take advantage of these resources if you plan to be successful in working in a diverse workplace or communicating effectively with others in your daily life.

Effective listening is about focusing on your customers and using effective interpersonal communication skills that will make them feel welcomed, cared for and served well. For you to perform your duties effectively as a customer service representative, you have to continually strive to learn and hone your listening skills and other people skills, especially when it comes to dealing with a diverse customer base.

For additional listening and interpersonal communication tips and hundreds of other customer service strategies that can aid in developing the best customer service culture possible, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success, Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures, and How to Be a Great Call Center Representative.

A 100 Percent ATTITUDE Is Crucial for Customer Service Representatives

A 100 Percent ATTITUDE Is Crucial for Customer Service Representatives

Organizations are constantly looking for better ways to increase customer satisfaction, generate additional revenue and spark customer retention. While some customer service professionals say that brand loyalty and keeping customers for life is an unachievable goal, there are some strategies that can strengthen the customer-provider relationship. A few of these efforts include:

Hiring people who have “personality” and who really enjoy interacting with internal and external customers.

Delivering quality customer service face-to-face and via technology by training every employee to be adept at using the technology provided for serving their customers effectively.

A 100 Percent ATTITUDE Is Crucial for Customer Service Representatives Educating all employees on the policies, procedures, products, and services that customers should be able to expect them to know. Organizations are constantly looking for better ways to increase customer satisfaction, generate additional revenue and spark customer retention. While some customer service professionals say that brand loyalty and keeping customers for life is an unachievable goal, there are some strategies that can strengthen the customer-service provider relationship.

Building a customer-centric environment that lets customers know that they truly are valued. This includes using positive interpersonal communication skills (e.g. active listening, verbal and nonverbal skills, and asking the right questions).

Ultimately, the secret tool for making sure that customers want to do business with an organization is that all employees must continually develop and display a positive attitude when dealing with current and potential customers. To demonstrate the power of this trait, think about the following formula.

If the letters…



Equals numerical values of…

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 26




1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 =100%

To learn more about the power of positive customer service using sound and proven customer service knowledge, techniques and strategies, get copies of Customer Service Skills for Success and Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.


Customer Service Representative – Active Listening Tips

Customer Service Representative - Active Listening Tips

Customer Service Representative – Active Listening Tips

Before you can effectively listen to your customers or clients as a customer service representative you must first prepare to listen. That is because active listening is a learned skill and is different from the passive action of simply hearing sounds. Not only do you need to take the opportunity to attend training sessions on how to become an active listener, but you must also focus your attention when listening and practice the skill on a regular basis in order to improve.

The following are some simple strategies you can use to increase the chances for a more positive interaction with your customers when talking to them face-to-face or over the telephone.

Eliminate physical barriers to effective communication. This means stop distracting actions. This includes using technology, taking notes (not related to the customer that you are serving), talking to others, or attending to other tasks.

Block mental barriers to communication. Many times you may have things going on in your brain that can cause you to not focus your complete attention on the person in front of you or on the telephone. Examples of this are biases against a person or group, preconceived ideas about what someone is saying or someone who reminds you of similar prior situations or people, anger, irritation, or physical and personal issues that distract from the job at hand. If you cannot appropriately attend to a customer or situation, excuse yourself and ask someone else to step in for you.

Focus on the customer and project a positive service attitude. Do this through your facial (e.g. smiling), non-verbal cues (e.g. posture and gestures) and verbal responses (e.g. tone, inflection, and pitch) while listening attentively to what they are saying.

Summarize your understanding frequently during a conversation. This is paraphrasing and involves repeating the customer’s message back to them in your own words. For example, once a customer has described why he or she came by or called, you might say something like, “So Mister Brown, if I understand you correctly, the issue is … Is that correct?” This approach lets the customer know that you were actually listening and helps ensure that you take the appropriate action or respond correctly. Just be careful to alternate your responses so that you do not use the same approach over several times. That would make you sound like a parrot and could actually irritate the customer.

Ask appropriate questions to clarify and get feedback from the customer. Closed-ended questions are good for affirmations that you understood something correctly or to get agreement or permission, but do little to involve your customer in a conversation. For example, “You would like to exchange this red scarf for one that has red in it but also has some more supple colors as well. Is that correct?” Closed-ended questions typically start with an action verb (e.g. do, did, can, should, or will) and normally lead to a short answer or yes/no response.

To engage your customers in more open dialogue, you might use open-ended questions. For example, “What would the perfect scarf look like to you Ms. Harrison?” This type of question allows the customer to take control of the conversation. It also can provide a subconscious feeling of empowerment, control, and decision-making. Such feelings can lead to less opportunity for dissatisfaction or change of mind later because the customer made the purchase decision and may not feel that you forced something on them that they did not want or like. Open-ended questions normally start with words like what, how, and why.

For more effective customer service tips, strategies and techniques for active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication with customers and other skills to help improve customer relationships, meet customer needs, wants and expectations and create a more customer-centric organization, get copies of How to Be a Great Call Center RepresentativePlease Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and Customer Service Skills for Success. The latter book is the top-selling customer service textbook in the U.S.

Customer Service Representatives Have to Power to Help or Hurt Their Organization

Customer Service Representatives Have to Power to Help or Hurt Their Organization

Customer Service Representatives Have

to Power to Help or Hurt Their Organization

You may have heard that one person can make a difference in the world. Well, one customer service representative can make a difference in the level of success that is achieved by an organization.

Think about the fact that if you are in a position where you are the first person with whom a customer or potential customer comes in contact, you have the power to create a positive image in that person’s mind. You are the face of your organization in such instances. What you do or say from the time you greet the customer until the transaction ends will cement an image in their mind. Through your professional presence, knowledge, verbal and non-verbal cues and attitude towards service, you can create an experience that will have the customer thinking either, “Wow, this is a person/company that I want to visit again” or “Where did they get that person? I’ll never do business with this organization again.” If the latter occurs, your organization has a problem because research continues to show that dissatisfied customers will tell many other people about a negative service experience. This less than favorable word-of-mouth publicity can bring disaster in the form of lost business. And, don’t forget that it is your current and new customers who provide the revenue that pays for your salary, benefits, training, and much more, so you have a vested interested in ensuring that each interaction is positive.

The important thing to remember about customer needs wants and expectations are that if you do not deliver what they believe to be exceptional customer service, they will simply go to another organization that will. By using professional customer service skills, such as listening, sending and receiving positive non-verbal communication, and verbally communicating in a positive manner, you can determine how to best serve your customers.

For more information, customer service tips and ideas on how to deliver the best possible customer service to a very diverse customer world, get a copy of my book Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures.

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