- Only one out of 26 customers bothers to complain; is our customer among the 25?
- While 80% of organizations believe that they deliver superior customer service, only 8% of their customers agree. Are we sure that our organization is not part of 72%?
- It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. How often do we offer such 12 positive strokes to convert an experience?
In the service industry, aren’t the above questions good ones to ponder? What could be the root cause of the above circumstances?
It is no secret that trust is the base of customer retention and is crucial to dismount customer aspersions. To overcome customer dissatisfaction and to convert that into ‘customers for life’, listening is the key, which translates into trust. On the other hand, ineffective listening is a great contributor to depleting customer connect and exits. The biggest mistake we commit is, we either overdo in listening to demanding customers or practice impaired listening with those who do not.
Every fulfilling outcome for a customer has its base in good listening. In reality, what happens on the customer connect terrain is contrary to this. What could be the reason for this? We tend to counter-speak or divert our attention within minutes, before the customer completes. Our uncontrolled enthusiastic solution-mindset takes control of context due to which we begin to provide a premature solution without listening to the requirement horizon. Whereas, the customers expect us to listen with empathy, respond aptly and keep in unceasing touch involving them. The absence of these depletes relationship and compels customers to seek better alternatives. In such situations, how appropriate is the saying - “Every good conversation starts with good listening”.
Cuban proverb, “Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world” has a meaningful. In a research, about 95% of leaders agreed that a positive customer experience is critical, whereas only 37% of them focused on initiatives in this direction. There is a need for commitment and strategic efforts from, both, managers and individuals in organizations. Stimulating is the fact that mere 5% rise in customer retention can increase profits ranging from 25% to 95%. Titanic outcomes can be the impact of tiny action like good listening.
Individuals have certain customer listening limbos:-
- We can listen at the rate of 600 words per minute whereas the customer can speak at the rate of 110-150 words per minute. If not well managed, this huge gap can get us in to a listening detour.
- Listening should occupy 35-45 percent of our interaction times with the customer. How many organizations focus on this? Currently, this seems to be a huge skill-gap.
- We assume that hearing, an involuntary physiological function, as listening. Hearing facilitates listening and can be force-fed whereas listening is a choice. An attitude towards our customer is our behavioral response to this choice.
- Listening is not a natural ability, but a learnable skill. Good listening is a result of one’s psychological regimen. It includes - being empathetic, probing, learning, unlearning and clarifying to understand the customer’s intent to be gratified.
Committed, consistent and sustained action plan on improving listening can help organizations to excel customer retention. Here are some approaches for management to ensure and safeguard customer interests through effective listening:-
- Employees treat customers the way their own organization treats them. To foster a good listening culture, managers must compel themselves to be role models and set calibrated listening benchmarks. Employees emulate managers and therefore, good listening can soon become part of an organization culture.
- Some of the customers’ key listening impact spots are requirements gathering, change requests, reviews, complaints and business learning. Organizations must consider each spot with distinction as an opportunity that propels customer connect.
- Wise managers strive to listen, to the implied and untold, through ruthless reviews on customer interactions.
- L&D can design and infuse good practices of listening through widespread learning programs on Informational Listening, Critical Listening and Empathetic Listening. This can act as an irreplaceable collateral to augment curiosity, creativity, problem solving and learning agility to glorious heights in an organization.
- As individuals, some of the ways by which we can hone our listening skills are as follows:-
- Be curious and probe to unearth the unsaid and grasp the implied needs. Higher the curiosity quotient better will be the thirst to be disruptive, better will be the zeal to do something different and so better will be the focus being open to listen, all the times, to every customer.
- If possible, record your conversations and play it back to yourself to assess your listening skills. This will also give an insight on your journey towards your response construct.
- The platinum rule of service is to treat the customer, as they want to be treated. We should consider listening as an ideological and purposeful intervention thrust upon oneself. This will help us to inculcate a virtue of valuing the customer and empathizing with an open and positive mind.
- Learn to be a panoramic listener by keeping the larger picture and overall impact in the backdrop. Visualize the interplay of correlated variables in customer’s life.
- A good doctor asks routine questions but analyzes the distinctive root causes and cures. Like how a doctor does not stereotype the patients, take a fresh look at every customer interaction and listen with intent.
- As Dale Carnegie suggests listen as if you were to answer a quiz at the end of the conversation. We must impose upon ourselves, a habit of talking proportionately lesser than the customer talks during interactions.
- An enthusiastic listener endeavors to tone down inner voices and increases the intellectual vistas to visualize and grasp what the customer intends us to understand.
- “Eyes are a reflection of our inner self”, therefore, maintain a good eye contact and motivate customer by slightly bending forward, wearing a smile on your face and occasional nodding of the head. This way, we can impel a behavioral submission to the speaker and ensure not be diverted.
- Hypothetical, double barrel and open-ended probing can open alternative ways for customer to clarify his point and express expectations from you to a greater degree. Rephrase or paraphrase key points and make necessary written notes, and yes, it is important to ascertain what is in it for you.
Listening well to our customers can help us to lead disruption; whereas disruptedly listening to customers can lead to business destruction. The wisdom is in making the right choice.