How well do you listen to customers? I mean really listen?
If active listening is not practiced regularly in your business, it could be having an impact on your bottom line. Here’s why.

Why Active Listening is So Important

Listening involves more than just hearing what’s being said. Or reading a bit of feedback or a customer complaint. Active listening means taking action.

People who are skilled listeners clear their minds of what their gut reaction or initial thoughts might be and instead focus on the content in front of them.

They ask for more, when possible (an in-person customer complaint, for example). Or they respond swiftly to customer complaints or other fires on social media.

People want to be heard, and statistics show that focusing on providing top notch customer service – really listening to what customers want – pays off:

  • 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a great customer experience
  • 73 percent say customer experience plays a big role in what they buy, and where they buy it
  • More than half – 65 percent – are more influenced by excellent customer service than by a slick ad campaign

How to Up Your Game and Really Listen to Customers

Those in the know believe that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price or product considerations when it comes to influencing potential customers. And that’s why it’s so important to have “Listen to Customers” at the top of the list when it comes to customer service.

Here are some ways to switch gears between simply “hearing” what your buyers are saying, and really listening to them.

If you’re face to face with an irate customer:

  • Maintain consistent eye contact. This shows your focus is on them and not what’s happening over their right shoulder!
  • Check their body language and tone of voice before jumping to conclusions, and don’t be defensive. Hear them out first.
  • One Golden Rule of active listening is don’t interrupt! If you have questions, quickly jot a few keywords down so you’ll remember to ask them when the customer is finished.
  • And keep emotions in check. Remember, your goal is to provide help or even diffuse the situation (if it’s an extremely unhappy customer). Don’t take things personally, and wait (and listen!) before responding.
  • Definitely ask for more information if you need it. This shows you really care, have heard what they’ve said, and want to get to the bottom of the issue.

Does Active Listening Work on Social Media?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, sometimes it’s easier because you have that buffer zone of not being face to face with an actual person. But make no mistake about it, it’s still extremely important that you listen to customers online, because bad customer experiences spread mighty fast across social networks!

  • Don’t ignore a customer’s complaint on social media. Ever.
  • Instead of responding with pat, pre-written responses, ask for more information, and inform them roughly how long it will take to resolve their issues. Don’t leave them hanging.

On social, many people reach out asking for help (especially if it’s tech related). One way to always be listening is to always be watching! Keep your eyes peeled for messages or @ mentions and respond as quickly as you can. It might be as easy as directing them to an FAQ page or YouTube video. But they will appreciate being heard and helped.

And definitely respond to happy customers just as quickly! If people love your product, and share that love online, make sure they know they have been heard. Thank them, or maybe have a system in place where once a month you “treat” an online fan.

People Just Want to Be Listened To

The bottom line is people just want to be heard, during the good, the bad, and the ugly! And, as human beings, we all generally respond well and feel a little bit special when we are.

It’s a tough world out there these days. Listen to customers. Solve their problems. And go out of your way to make them feel just a little bit special. There’s a good chance you’ll end up feeling pretty good yourself!

What do you think? Have you been in a situation with a company where you simply weren’t heard, no matter how hard you tried? Or, have you really listened to a customer, and had positive results by doing so? I would love you to share your experiences!