Unfortunately, many of us can be poor listeners at times. Be honest when someone is talking to you do you:
- Think of a similar situation you were once in?
- Formulate your response before the person is done talking?
- Let your mind wander?
- Judge the other person based on what they are telling you?
You’re not alone if you do. Here is a startling statistic: according to the International Listening Association when we listen to someone speak, we only recall about 50% of what they say.
Why is listening so difficult?
There are many reasons being a good listener is so challenging. First and foremost, listening is a skill rather than an innate ability and like any skill, it requires practice. Most people don’t consider listening as something that needs to be learned and so we don’t work at it.
There are other reasons why listening can be so difficult, including that we may not find the subject matter that interesting. It’s more of a challenge to listen to and retain what’s being said when you’re bored.
Also, we are often busy and even hurried, and doing multiple things at once. Ever find yourself typing an e-mail while talking on the phone? We have pressure to answer and respond immediately to voice messages, text messages and e-mails which doesn’t give us sufficient time to really listen or problem-solve with others.
However, the single most common barrier to being a good listener is our overwhelming urge to talk. We may want to make our agenda known, defend ourselves in an argument or offer help to try and “fix” the situation. This means while someone is talking, we are often mentally planning our response rather than really listening to what is being said.
Why is listening so important to providing good customer service?
Good listening creates a positive customer experience because it makes someone feel important. When we listen, we are really giving someone our consideration and our time and we are truly connecting with them. It’s an important part of customer service because good listening creates an environment where the customer feels they are being understood, and that generates trust.
A big part of the job when working with customers is attending to their needs and problem solving. In order to do that effectively we need to listen attentively, seek out the appropriate information and ask the right questions to better help them.
How can I become a better listener?
Developing good listening skills takes a lot of practice and training. Here are some tips to help you become a better listener and provide a better customer experience:
- Give the other person your full attention. Turn off your cell phone, do not look at your incoming e-mail and tune out all other distractions.
- Really focus and concentrate on what the other person is saying. This takes practice as you must be actively aware of yourself and pay complete attention. When you find your mind wandering or thinking about what you want to say, get it back on track right away.
- Fully absorb the information. Taking notes may help. You may also need to ask questions to gain clarification on things that are vague or you are unsure of.
- Don’t interrupt. Let the speaker finish making the major points that he or she wants to make before you respond.
- Paraphrase the major points and concerns. This helps to ensure you are understanding what is being said and shows the speaker you are paying attention.
- Pay attention to the tone of the speaker (or body language if you are talking in person). This can also provide you with valuable information as to how to best problem-solve.
- Attempt to listen 75% of the time and speak 25% of the time. Time yourself on your next conversation to see how you’re doing!
Being a good listener is not just an important customer service skill, it is an art that when done well has many benefits. It is also the key to successful relationships both personally and at work. The challenge it is that good listening requires a strong effort each time you are engaged in a conversation, constant attention and awareness, and lots of practice. Hopefully these steps will help you on your way to becoming a fantastic listener!