The best customer service professionals are more than good talkers – they're also good listeners.
(article continues below)
Although the ability to hear what customers are actually saying is a vital customer service skill, it's one that is lacking in many call centers.
Listening skills help call center employees identify, clarify and address customer service issues in an efficient and professional manner. Good listeners routinely strengthen your company's relationships with your customers, while workers with weak listening skills have a knack for leaving chaos and confusion in their wake.
The payoff for improving your team's listening skills is well worth the effort. Here are some of the way you can improve listening skills to improve customer service in your company's call center.
- Avoid defensive posturing. Defensive posturing is like kryptonite for listening skills in a call center. Customer service reps have to overcome the temptation to approach customers with an adversarial mindset because it limits their ability to hear your customers' concerns.
- Ask clarifying questions. Active listening requires customer service staff to ask clarifying questions throughout the conversation. Clarifying questions don't question the customer's motives or agenda, but bring greater clarity to the conversation and the issues that are being addressed.
- Offer frequent summaries. Good listeners offer frequent summaries of the conversation to eliminate any lingering confusion and to communicate that the agent has accurately understood the nature and scope of the customer's problem.
- Identify verbal cues. One of the more challenging aspects of customer service is that agents can't rely on non-verbal cues. But customers offer verbal cues that can indicate the severity of the problem and their openness to potential solutions. Customer service reps should be trained to listen for those verbal cues and to act on them accordingly.
- Address communication barriers. Company management needs to be diligent about identifying and removing obstacles to listening and communication. Poor quality headsets, noisy workspaces and other factors can make it difficult for customer service employees to exercise good listening skills.