When you listen to a customer (or co-worker, spouse, significant other), your brain is constantly making hundreds of assumptions. Each word, inflection, and tone of voice is interpreted, but not always as the speaker intended. According to studies, close to 70% of all employees complain that their management doesn’t listen.*
We all think we know how to listen, yes? The fact is that very few people know how to truly listen. So many of us have such a staid desire to serve our customers that we immediately seek out the answer while the person is still expressing what they have to say. The very moment the person pauses to contemplate what he/she would say next, we immediately search for a resolution to the problem at hand.
Sometimes we may worry that we would be faced with that inevitable question we cannot answer with even a modicum of knowledge. Can these questions be answered? Can we respond without sacrificing our credibility? What if somebody asks me a question I cannot answer? What if I don’t understand the question? Will they have my derriere on a plate if they find out that I have precious little experience in what I do? What if they get mad and call me a bleeping bleep? What if they demand that my boss quotes the Donald and fires me? What if, what if, you fill in the blank. You are fretting, you are worrying, you are probably squeezing a stress ball or wishing you stayed in bed, but the last thing you are doing is listening.
To paraphrase the 1960s classic, we are just souls whose intentions are good. After all, we want to give snappy answers to every question, right? But if our ears are not attuned to the conversation, the other person cannot help but feel as if he or she is talking to a wall, or worse, consorting with the “enemy.” Such a scenario can turn a person’s mood from sweet to sour faster than you can say “listen up!” Hint – when you do not listen to the customer, you are precluding every chance of giving the right answer. The truth is you probably haven’t even heard it.
Believe it or not, listening is the communication skill we use the least and with the most inefficacy. You’re wrong, buddy – MOST people cannot listen effectively, and good listening makes a good customer service associate. With active listening, we are behooved to actually have an idea of what the customer is saying, instead of pre-meditating our answers which may not even be apropos to the question.
Hearing and listening are not the same, though many people use the words interchangeably.
Hearing is a physiological manifestation of the human body – our ears receive auditory stimuli and the information is transmitted thereafter to our cerebrum.
Listening is the translation and interpretation of said sensory manifestation.
“Listen” can give birth to the word “list”, or to lean towards one side. Have you ever noticed how you lean in when someone is talking to you, or vice versa? Yes, even in phone conversations.
Listening is a two-way street wherein both parties profit if they do listen. However, listening is half the battle – you have to communicate with efficacy that yes indeed, you ARE listening. So many people are misconstrued as not listening to the other person, and the cause is often an inability to communicate to them that they are indeed listening.