How to Develop Listening Skills for Customer Service

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Listening is one of the most valued skills companies seek in employees, according to studies posted at the International Listening Association website. Other studies showed business personnel spent nearly 60 percent of the workday either speaking or listening. That's why it is important to develop listening skills for improved customer service. Customer service employees with effective listening skills strengthen business relationships. On the other hand, customer service staff who lack listening skills can get tied up in misunderstandings. There are a number of ways to develop listening skills for customer service, but it takes practice and commitment.

  • Note any communication barriers, such as bias, noise, emotion and cultural difference, that can lead to misunderstandings. For example, a customer service employee may assume a client is going to react a certain way based on past experience, so she may be less willing or hesitant to help the client. Approach the speaker with an open mind to avoid communication barriers.

  • Learn to recognize verbal and nonverbal cues to develop listening skills. A dialogue consists of vocal, tactile, visual and spatial components that work both ways. A client's intonation may hint at his confusion while an employee's eye contact shows interest. Pay attention to body language, proximity and variations of vocal expression--repetition, timing and tone.

  • Focus on the message as part of good customer service. It is normal to get defensive when a negative situation arises in the workplace, but this creates tension and undesirable outcomes. When a client calls to complain, remain objective; concentrate on the message, not the delivery.

  • Develop listening skills through clarifying questions. Gain information to understand the speaker. For instance, a call center employee may ask the customer to describe the problem in detail.

  • Summarize what the customer said to make sure you accurately understand the situation. A prompt like "If I am hearing correctly ..." is an effective way to begin rephrasing, but try to develop your own; it sounds more natural.

  • Utilize different listening skills. Since situations in a customer service setting are fluid, it is sometimes necessary to go back and ask, repeat or recap. For example, if a costumer is not satisfied with the solutions offered, then repeat the idea that you want to help.

  • Acquire feedback to develop listening skills. Survey a customer's experience and reflect on the exchange.
    Sit with your back straight, or stand and stretch to stay alert while listening.

Tips & Warnings

  • Provide better customer service with a pen and paper. Jot points as a listening aid.
  • Do not preempt the speaker. To develop better listening skills, avoid assumptions about what the speaker will say.

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  • Photo Credit Earlobefreephoto, Wikipedia, Hunter Freyer
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