Customer Service Skill – Listening to the Customer

Customer Service Skill – Listening to the Customer

Successful listening is essential for any customer service representative to achieve customer service excellence. Like any other customer service skill, active listening is a learned behavior that some people perform better than others. To provide the best customer service possible you must master this skill, especially as part of telephone etiquette when dealing with customers over the telephone.

Customer Service Representative Skill- Building – Listening to the Customer

Some common characteristics possessed by most effective listeners include:

  • Empathy.Putting yourself in the customer’s place and trying to relate to the customer’s needs, wants, and concerns.
  • Understanding.The ability to listen as customers speak in order to ensure that you realize what they want, need and expect. This is essential in properly servicing the customer.
  • Patience. Taking the time to pause and listen attentively as your customer speaks. Keep in mind that it is your job to serve the customer and that not everyone communicates in the same manner. Thus, you must put forth the effort to allow your customer to share their ideas, issues or questions without interrupting in order to determine their needs.
  • Attentiveness. By focusing your attention on the customer, you can better interpret his or her message and satisfy his or her needs. Attentiveness is often displayed through nonverbal cues (e,g, nodding or cocking of the head to one side or the other, smiling, or using paralanguage).
  • Objectivity. In dealings with customers, try to avoid subjective opinions or judgments. If you have a preconceived idea about customers, their concerns or questions, the environment, or anything related to the customers, you could mishandle the situation.

The characteristics of effective and ineffective listeners are summarized below.

Characteristics of Effective and Ineffective Listeners

Many factors can indicate an effective or ineffective listener. Over the years, researchers have assigned the following characteristics to effective and ineffective listeners. As a customer service professional, strive to master the skills in the left column and work to eliminate those in the right column in order to better serve your customers.
Effective   Listeners Ineffective   Listeners
Focused Inattentive
Responsive Uncaring
Alert Distracted
Understanding Unconcerned
Caring Insensitive
Empathetic Smug/conceited
Unemotional Emotionally involved
Interested Self-centered
Patient Judgmental
Cautious Disorganized
Open Defensive

For additional ideas on listening to the customer and providing excellent customer service, get a copy of Customer Service Skills for Success.

Typical Customer Contact Center Representative Competencies

Typical Customer Contact Center Representative Competencies

Typical Customer Contact Center Representative Competencies

To perform well in a call center/customer care center, employees must possess some very special competencies or capacities/abilities to perform required job tasks. Because of the specific requirements of the job, organizations must look for candidates possessing many of these typical customer contact representative competencies as possible. It is essential that call center/customer care center personnel have strong interpersonal communication skills, be organized, able to problem solve, and have a strong sense of the importance of their function as the “face” of the organization.

The following are some common competencies that employers look for in applicants desiring to work in a call center/customer care center. These are listed in alphabetical order and vary in importance depending on the organizational mission.

Business acumen. An understanding of the relationship between their jobs and how they impact the business and customers.

Contact management. Ability to control customer interaction once they contact the representative through a variety of assigned technology.

Change management. Ability to adapt to and handle changing situations and customer and business environments.

Conflict resolution. Ability to use effective interpersonal skills to resolve difficult customer-provider interactions.

Cross-selling. In environments where selling of products and services is a business focus, the ability to recognize potential customer needs and opportunities to sell or up-sell to customers.

Decision making. Ability to gather and analyze information, then apply appropriate interventions to resolve and issue or come to a decision.

Interpersonal communication. Ability to actively listen, question appropriately, provide feedback, and use customer communication skills to build and strengthen customer relationships.

Managing diversity. Cultural diversity knowledge and the ability to interact with a variety of people from various backgrounds in the workplace.

Managing stress. Ability to maintain a calm demeanor and mental state when situations and emotions escalate to higher levels when interacting with a customer.

For additional call center/customer care center competencies, ideas, techniques and strategies for enhancing customer relationships, and information on ways to build solid interpersonal communication skills, check out How to Be a Great Call Center Representative. In this self-study course book, you will find hundreds of powerful ideas for improving knowledge and skills that can aid in meeting customer needs, wants and expectations and lead to greater customer satisfaction and retention. You also receive a certificate from the renowned American Management Association.

Improving Your Listening Ability Can Aid Customer Service

Improving Your Listening Ability Can Aid Customer Service

Improving Your Listening Ability Can Aid Customer Service

Effective listening skills are crucial in building and maintaining relationships with other people, especially in a customer service environment. Unfortunately, it is a skill that many people do not learn or practice well.

To improve your ability to effectively and accurately receive information and messages from others, take some time to attend training programs on how to listen better. It will be money well spent and like any other skill, the more you work at it, the better you likely will become at using it.

Before attending training, verify the accuracy of your perception about your own listening effectiveness. To do so, ask several friends, family members and people in your workplace, who know your listening abilities well, to rate you. Have them use the scale of Outstanding, Above Average, Average, Poor, and Ineffective. Once they rate you, have them provide hints on how to improve your effectiveness. These submissions or ratings could be done anonymously in order to get more candid feedback. Once you get the information, objectively analyze it and then incorporate it into your listening improvement action plan, as necessary.

For more tips on how to improve your ability to effectively communicate and interact with customers in a variety of situations, 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.

About Robert C. Lucas

Bob Lucas has been a trainer, presenter, customer service expert, and adult educator for over four decades. He has written hundreds of articles on training, writing, self-publishing, and workplace learning skills and issues. He is also an award-winning author who has written thirty-seven books on topics such as, writing, relationships, customer service, brain-based learning, and creative training strategies, interpersonal communication, diversity, and supervisory skills. Additionally, he has contributed articles, chapters, and activities to eighteen compilation books. Bob retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 after twenty-two years of active and reserve service.

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