Customer Experience News & Trends

4 ways to improve how you listen to (and help) customers

Listen better, help better. It seems easy, yet listening – truly listening – can be difficult. Here’s help to listen well and make the customer experience better. 

You’d think listening would be easy because it seems like a passive activity.

But it’s actually a conscious activity. And busy professionals often get distracted from or lazy with conscious, passive tasks.

“It’s harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated,” says Julian Treasure, an author and communication expert in his TedTalk. “This is a serious problem that we’re losing our listening … Listening is our access to our understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding.”

Here are four tactics to help you listen better to customers, help them more effectively, and ultimately improve their experiences.

Practice quiet

Spend at least three minutes each day being completely silent. Listen to each distinct sound in your silence – for instance, birds chirping, passing cars, a copy machine, the coffee maker, a radio, etc. – “the hidden choir” around you, says Treasure.

The exercise helps you reset and calibrate your ears to focus on listening the rest of the day.

Change your listening positions

Be conscious of your listening position – and change it when necessary. These are the four most common and when they work best.

  • Passive listening is when you don’t need to absorb information, or may just take it in for enjoyment, such as when watching a movie.
  • Active listening is being engaged in a conversation and absorbing information.
  • Empathetic listening lets the speaker know you are in line with him or her emotionally, shown through nods and/or verbal cues such as, “uh-huh” and “I see.”
  • Critical listening is when you want to hear the bottom line such as in a lecture or in a situation you must respond to and act on.

Practice RASA

You can improve the art of listening by practicing Treasure’s acronym RASA when you work with customers:

  • Receive. Pay attention to the speaker to receive the communication.
  • Appreciate. Make small, acknowledging sounds so the speaker knows you appreciate what’s being said.
  • Summarize. Echo back to the speaker, “So what you’re saying is …” to check that you’ve heard properly.
  • Ask. Asking questions shows you’re listening and gives you the opportunity to clarify.

Hold back

When you listen, deliberately stop thinking about what you want to say, the points you want to counter or the solution you want to offer. It’s difficult to shut off these filters, but it’s important.

Take notes and imagine what customers explain to stay focused. Then pause to pull together what you want to say.


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