In our previous blog post we went over some of the common obstacles to effective or active listening. Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to really listen and to try to understand the underlying message of the speaker.
Active listening implies that we are actively listening – i.e. listening with our full attention and with all of our senses. This type of listening is an essential aspect of service excellence, and will do a lot to gain the trust and loyalty of a customer or client. It is also a crucial skill for problem-solving and conflict resolution which will in turn prevent a customer complaint from escalating.
Here are 8 ways to show that we are really listening:
It’s important to not only pay complete attention. but show that we’re paying attention. We can convey interest and attention by using verbal as well as non-verbal queues, such as maintaining a steady eye contact, nodding our head and smiling and agreeing with a ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage the one speaking. By providing this encouragement, and showing that we are listening openly, the person speaking is immediately put at ease so they can communicate more easily, openly and honestly.
To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.”
– Betsy Sanders, former Senior Vice President and General Manager, Nordstrom
It’s important to remain as neutral and objective as possible, especially if there is a customer service crisis. This means trying not to take sides or form opinions, especially early in the conversation.
It may be tempting to interrupt the conversation with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings. They should, therefore, be given adequate time for that. Allow for pauses and short periods of silence to give “space” to the conversation
Watch Your Posture and Body Language
Posture and body language says a lot about the quality of the interaction.
An attentive listener tends to sit erect, lean slightly forward, maintain eye contact and keep a pleasant expression.
Be a Mirror
Reflection or mirroring of the speakers facial expressions – if done in a genuine way – is another way of providing attentive listening. The authentic mirroring of emotions is a form of empathy, which, as we discussed in our blog post on emotional intelligence and empathy, is a very important element in communication and customer care.
Reinforce and Remember
It’s a good idea to reinforce and remember the key points made by the speaker, as this will reassure them that you are sincerely listening. Remembering points, details, ideas and concepts proves that we really care and that our attention was maintained throughout the interaction. During longer conversations, plan to take careful notes which could be used in case questions or clarifications are needed later.
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”
– Bernard Baruch
Asking relevant questions can not only clarify but also enhance and build upon what the customer or client has said. By asking relevant questions, we show that we are invested and engaged in the communication.
Reflection and Summarize
Reflection is a powerful skill. It entails repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said in order to demonstrate a deeper comprehension. Summarizing the conversation also helps solidify the question or issue, by listing the main points made in clear and concise way.
There are, of course, several other examples of attentive listening but the ones listed here are the most essential, when it comes to customer or client care.