How to Listen to Your Customers

EricJacques
Eric Jacques Client Satisfaction Manager, Lawson Software/Healthvision

Posted on June 27th 2010

How to Listen to Your Customers

hipster grafitti

When dealing with customers, we all know that one of the most important skills is listening. But, do we know how to listen?

We all think that we listen to our customers but in reality, we usually pretend to listen. Here are a few examples of pretend listening.

  • Thinking about your response
  • Wondering how this will impact your work/business
  • Feeling hurt by the criticism
  • Interpreting what’s being said through your assumptions
  • Using only our ears to listen.

All our lives, we’ve been trained (albeit indirectly) to make listening about us. But to really listen, we need to put ego aside and open ourselves up to the other person. It’s a vulnerable position but one that is very important if we really want to listen and learn.

Anthropologist’s View on Listening

Recently, Chris Bailey published a post called Listening to What Isn’t Said. Chris is an anthropologist who works in customer experience design and his post is definitely worth reading.

In his post, he gives us five simple ways to listen to what is not said.

  • Shut Up
  • Be Naive
  • Get Curious
  • Show Me
  • Record It

Click on the link up there to get the details; it really is worth the read.

Hearing What Isn’t Said

What isn’t said is often much more important that what is. It defines the context and the subtext to what is really meant.

To really listen to our customers, we need to drop our ego. This isn’t easy; especially when we’re fully invested in what we do. But it’s a prerequisite.

Listening is not about you. It’s all about the other person, your customer.

Everyone in your organization needs to learn how to honestly and completely listen to customers (and remember the internal customers).

If you really don’t have a lot of money to invest and can only do one thing to improve your customer service, this is one important skill that needs to be learned. Learning to really listen can and will have a positive effect on the customer experience.

So go ahead, read Chris’ post, make a little card with the five ways to really listen, get every one to read the post and stick the card to their monitor. And, then follow-up! Remind your people to really listen every chance you get; if you only do it once, they’ll think it’s your latest fad (they’ll be right) and will forget it.

So what do you think? Do you have any listening tips?

 

Comments

Posted on July 1st 2010 at 9:57PM

HI Eric Great point. Listening has been a "hobby horse" of mine for more years than I care to remember. It's a fundamental skill for management, relationship building, sales etc etc. The interesting thing is that it is somehow seen as a natural skill and it most definitely is not. We teach speaking, writing and reading skills but there are very few courses around on listening. This why the typical sales and marketing person finds all this "customer power" stuff so confronting because instead of utilising their trained skills in "telling" there is now a focus on listening. The key to listening, if you watch a conversation, is what I call the supplementary question. A first question might be "where do you go on holiday" with a supplementary question such as "tell me more about that" but more often than not the first question leads to a statement such as "oh I was there last year, let me tell you about my experience !". The encouragement to "listen to your customers" assumes that listening skills are natural. They are not. We see listening as one of the key competencies of a Clienteer and it will definitely be part of the skills development program which we will be creating.

EricJacques
Posted on July 23rd 2010 at 12:45AM

Hi Ray!

I agree and it definitely is a fundamental skill for anyone who does more than use a machine.

I like the idea of the supplementary question and it isn't natural. I'll watch for it and try to use it myself or see if I already do (I hope so!)

Cheers!

Eric

Posted on July 1st 2010 at 10:00PM

HI Eric Great point. Listening has been a "hobby horse" of mine for more years than I care to remember. It's a fundamental skill for management, relationship building, sales etc etc. The interesting thing is that it is somehow seen as a natural skill and it most definitely is not. We teach speaking, writing and reading skills but there are very few courses around on listening. This why the typical sales and marketing person finds all this "customer power" stuff so confronting because instead of utilising their trained skills in "telling" there is now a focus on listening. The key to listening, if you watch a conversation, is what I call the supplementary question. A first question might be "where do you go on holiday" with a supplementary question such as "tell me more about that" but more often than not the first question leads to a statement such as "oh I was there last year, let me tell you about my experience !". The encouragement to "listen to your customers" assumes that listening skills are natural. They are not. We see listening as one of the key competencies of a Clienteer and it will definitely be part of the skills development program which we will be creating.