This week Peter Mullarkey discusses the simple benefit in listening to improve customer service.
One of life’s biggest frustrations is being made to wait. This may occur when a friend runs late, or the online delivery scheduled for the morning eventually arrives after supper, but for me the most frustrating wait is for public transport.
You rely on a team of people to assist you to your destination and this lack of control can start to boil over when told of a delay or, even worse, a cancellation. So, frustration for me reached boiling point when travelling back from Edinburgh recently with a colleague: We were informed of a two hour delay because of a broken down plane and our only real choice, while stuck on the air side of the airport, was to sit in the café and discuss the day’s meeting while checking and responding to emails. I went up to the busy counter to order a cappuccino and a latte, which were swiftly delivered to the table.
An hour into our wait, the drinks were empty and we needed more, so up to the counter again I went. It was still bustling with activity, but when I heard “would you like the same again?” I was taken aback at their ability to remember what I had ordered an hour ago since at least 60 more orders would have passed through in that time. It was a response I might have expected in my local hostelry, but not in an airport café. This listening and repeating exercise really impressed me. It was simple but also personal, and overall gave a positive customer experience that didn’t cost any extra to deliver. People are always asking about what added value they can receive and top of the list should always be listening and understanding.
These values were echoed in a recent service story from Levanter in which they outlined 12 simple tips that can significantly improve your ability to listen to your internal and external customers:
1. Acknowledge the enormous power and benefits that stem from carefully listening to others.
2. When the customer talks, stop doing whatever you are doing.
3. Stay 100% focused on the customer. Do not allow yourself to be distracted.
4. If you face the customer in person, establish frequent eye-contact, but without making him feel uncomfortable.
5. If you deal with the customer over the phone, close your eyes or focus them on a fixed spot.
6. While the customer is talking, write down key words in a sheet of paper. This will help you retain the main ideas.
7. Never interrupt a customer! Be cautious and let him finish talking.
8. Keep your emotions in check. Sometimes we don’t like what we are told, but if you get carried away, your focus will shift from what’s most important: the customer’s feelings.
9. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have listened to everything the customer had to say.
10. Read the customer’s body language and tone of voice. Sometimes they speak louder than words.
11. If something is not well understood, ask the customer to repeat it.
12. Rephrase and double check with the customer.