How to Use Deep Listening in Customer Service

6 min read
Aug 11, 2017
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Dream catcher sunset deep listening in customer service metaphor

Have you ever called customer service and tried to explain what your problem is, but you had the impression that they are not interested in solving it?

Maybe you came across a customer service rep who didn’t let you finish and kept interrupting?

Or maybe you’ve contacted customer support and after explaining what’s your headache, but you received an answer that didn’t solve your problem?

Well, it looks like you fell prey to one of the greatest customer service problems: lack of deep listening.

What is deep listening

When we listen, we almost never just listen. We compare the information we get to what we already know. We tend to turn on critical thinking too early and judge the information based on our experience and we rarely think about the point of view of a person we talk to.

For example, a customer contacts a customer service rep and tells them that they have a problem with their product. Let’s say that they just bought a hairdryer and they discovered it makes some really weird noises.

Now, a rep who didn’t listen carefully might say to themselves: “What is she talking about? A hairdryer is supposed to make noises!”. They might miss the fact that this darn hairdryer was broken.

It’s too easy to discredit information you just received just because you think that the complaint is silly.!

That’s why deep listening is such an awesome skill in customer service. It helps to learn and understand what other person is saying: openly, willingly, and without judging before you hear the whole story.

Poor listeners are more likely to interrupt, because they already jumped to conclusions about what another person is saying, or they are simply not interested in it! As a result, you’re having a lot of unhappy customers and unresolved cases.

Blue dreamcatcher sun

How to become a great listener

Luckily, as any other skill, deep listening can be trained.

As I already explained in my 4 Steps to Effective Customer Service Problem Solving article, the first step in solving problems of your customers is understanding their point of view.

You can’t do it without knowing what did they experience! Sometimes the most obvious case sounds different when you actually listen to customers words and emotions behind them.

But enough talking about the importance of deep listening, let’s get to the part where you actually become a better listener.

#1. Stop doing anything else

Sometimes it’s very difficult to focus on one customer, especially in busy customer service environment.

When I was working in a call center, I used to listen to a customer and write a note about their problem at the same time. As you can guess, it often turned out that I missed an important element of the story and, in the end, offered an inadequate solution.

When a customer is talking to you, just don’t do anything apart from listening.

#2. Don’t feel guilty for the problem

Customers often vent on reps and blame them for company mistakes. I hated this kind of calls when I was working in a call center because I never knew what to say (especially that I thought that it wasn’t the most reliable company in the world).

As a result, every time when a customer was calling with the problem, I was unconsciously expecting them to blame me for the problem they were having. While listening to them, I was trying to find a legitimate excuse why the problem happened at the same time.

What I didn’t understand was that I wasn’t there to be my company’s advocate. I was supposed to help these customers the best way I possibly could. So every time you feel bad for the problem your customer is having, focus on one thing: you’re a Support Hero and you’re there to help.

#3. Let go of judgement as long as you can

Let’s recall any of Agatha Christie’s crime stories.

At the beginning, it seems to be obvious who’s the murderer. We might assume that Mr. Wrong is the one who killed Granny and took her diamonds, but did we judge him right?

As the story evolves, it turns out that there are plenty of details that make other characters of the story questionable. As always, it’s Hercules Poirot who was careful enough to see all details of a crime. He was the one who deeply listened to all characters and could come up with the solution of the mystery.

So, the next time a customer is contacting you with a problem, try to turn into a private detective.

Listen and acknowledge what you hear (even if you don’t agree with it), but don’t make assumptions! It will help you to keep an open mind and come with a solution you normally wouldn’t think about.

#4. Pay attention to the tone of voice

Empathy is one of the crucial customer service skills. It’s the ability to understand people’s emotions and respond the way they expect you to respond. If you’re not listening carefully, you might miss signs of customer’s emotions.

They might be sad, furious, calm, happy, disappointed or angry. Depending on their emotions, you should use different language and a different tone of voice so they enjoy speaking with you.

It’s just like in a real world!

When you see your friend is upset, you don’t make bad jokes about their looks. When they have a problem, you’re trying to come up with solutions, and when they are happy, you smile in return.

Mutuality is the secret of making meaningful relationships with people.

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Listening, not hearing

When you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed.
Jiddu Krishnamurti

Deep listening is one of the essential problem-solving skills that help you to get into shoes of your customer and understand their point of view. It translates into two benefits: you can offer a better solution for your customers’ problems and customers see that you care about the solution (and love the experience!).

But, in the end, deep listening is not about customer service only. It’s about communication in general. The way we listen affects the way we understand our fellow humans and I don’t mean customers only: I mean our partners, friends, and family.

So, although this skill is essential for all jobs where you have a direct contact with people, the awesome thing about it is that it helps us to become better versions of ourselves and build better relationships.

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