Customer Experience News & Trends

What stops us from hearing what customers really say

Nobody listens to me! Many customers feel that way — and it can destroy their satisfaction and loyalty. Here’s where the listening problems are — and how to improve the experience.

Almost 75% of customers who’ve had a bad experience blame it on having to explain their issue several times and/or to different people, a Zendesk survey found.

They feel like the people who are supposed to be helping them are barely listening to them.

Why? Even the best customer service professionals get distracted when they’re supposed to be listening intently to customers.

Here are the five most common listening faults — and how service pros can work around them when interacting with customers:

1. Focusing on facts alone

You’d think it were a good thing to remember and spout out just the facts. But listening is a more active form of communication — it also involves reading people’s actions, tones and words. You need to get the whole idea the other person is trying to convey — not just the facts, but the emotions involved in the situation, too.

Fix it: Take time to read, understand and note the emotions you witness when gathering facts. Then, respond to them.

2. Setting up mental blocks

We all have words, phrases or attitudes that turn us off or upset us because we associate them with something unpleasant. Then customers use those words or refer to something we don’t approve of, and we mentally tune them out.

Fix it: Note words you don’t like and practice a better reaction to them. Keep your opinions in check, and understand that customers will have different ideas about politics, business practices, pop culture and other subjects that are better left for the debate stage. If they bring any of those topics us, move on to solutions to their issues.

3. Getting distracted

Conversations with customers can get thrown off track when service pros don’t fully focus on what’s being said. (In all fairness, customers don’t always focus either.) You might get distracted by those around you, another call or the notion that you know exactly where the conversation is going.

Fix it: Practice these three top listening techniques all the time to stay involved in conversations:

  • Ask questions
  • Respond to what’s said, and
  • Request clarification when needed.

4. Assuming you understand

Some service pros jump to conclusions before the customer is done because they think they’ve heard the story, question or problem many times before — and know the solution they’ll need. They’re listing just to respond, rather than to understand.

Fix it: Repeat what’s been said before giving an answer to confirm you “get it” exactly the way the customer wants you to get it.

5. Being argumentative

Sometimes customers make a statement at the beginning of a conversation that service pros disagree with. Then service pros spend the rest of the so-called listening time preparing to counter. For instance, a rep might focus on a fact she feels she can disprove with documents. Or a rep might think a customer is lying and want to call him or her out.

Fix it: Hear the customer out, listening for what’s right and focusing mostly on that. Take notes on less-clear points you’ll need to address only if they’re vital to the conversation outcome. Calmly respond to them without ever saying, “You’re wrong.”

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