Recently, our Director of Client Happiness hosted a professional development workshop on improving customer service. Her first question? “Who has a bad customer service experience they’d like to share?”
Hands shot up all over the room.
We’ve all experienced the frustration that accompanies feeling ignored. We call a company and get the run around—transferred from person to person, not believing anyone really cares. We feel frustrated, powerless, and complete the call with a poor image of the company.
“I just wish they would have listened to me,” we say.
All anyone wants when they have a problem is to be heard. Understanding this principle and demonstrating the ability to actively listen goes a long way in today’s society, and it can help set your company apart .
Builds Client Trust. If you prove to your client base you are actively listening, and respond with empathy, your clients will feel taken care of and continue to build a relationship with your company. For example, one of our receptionists recently received this compliment from a caller: “You are one of the nicest people I have talked to. So many people forget now-a-days to be courteous on the phone. I hope I get to meet you when I come by the office.” If your clients trust they are being listened to, you are well on your way to developing a loyal customer and strong company advocate.
Aids Company Growth. Having a listening ear does more than improve customer service—it provides insights into how your company is performing and aids in decision-making. Are there certain pain points being expressed more often than others? Or, on the flip side, are you receiving a number of compliments on a certain aspect of your company? This is all valuable information in understanding what areas of your company are thriving, and what areas could use a little adjusting.
Now that you have an understanding as to why listening is important, here are five steps you can take to build a culture of listening in your company.
Teach your employees to be active listeners.
Every employee, not just those who interact with clients most, need to be taught active listening skills. Here are a few examples of fun active listening exercises:
- Group Storytelling: A story is told one sentence at a time, with each staff member adding a new element. Each person must listen carefully to ensure they tell the story correctly, while also adding an element that fits with the storyline.
- My Vacation Spot: One staff member discusses their ideal vacation spot, providing subtle hints as to the specific location. The other staff member must then recommend a vacation destination based on their explanation, with the speaker confirming or denying the suggestion’s usefulness.
- So You’re Saying: Have one staff member explain a common customer complaint or issue. The second staff member must then summarize what has been heard, and repeat this summary back to the speaker for confirmation.
- Have the Last Word: Two employees carry on a conversation with one catch—each employee must begin their response with the same letter of the last character of the last word the other employee just spoke. For example:
Employee 1: “I really enjoy going skiing on weekends.”
Employee 2: “So do I!”
Listen to your employees.
A culture of listening starts at the top. Being accessible and willing to listen encourages your employees to speak up on issues, and shares ideas on how to take action. For instance, Rubys have a number of outlets to provide feedback about their roles and the company, and are encouraged to ignite change. This encouragement has led to fitness classes, a company podcast, a dragon boat racing team, and many other passions coming to life within the Ruby culture.
Give your customers a voice.
Empower your clients or customers to share their experiences by offering a number of outlets for them to provide feedback. Invite customers to share their thoughts through social media channels. Post a feedback form on your website. Email clients a simple and short satisfaction survey. SurveyMonkey has a number of resources on the dos and don’ts of building client satisfaction surveys. Most importantly, seek out opportunities to gather feedback from your customers face-to-face, such as after status meetings, or at conferences.
Emotions are messy, but they a large part of what makes us human. Customers are increasingly looking for a more personal experience when interacting with a company, and great companies know how to empathize and make themselves approachable. Being empathetic validates the person taking the time to provide feedback to you, and is an important tool in being an effective listener.
Once you’ve received feedback from your clients, acknowledge it. Take the time to respond personally to feedback you receive, address any issues raised, and let them know the plan moving forward. This means more than providing updates on company changes or products. Share the story of where those changes originated, and the benefits they will bring to your customers. If you’re a service-based company, consider a blog series, podcast, or video series dedicated to addressing common customer questions. For example, Ruby’s videocast, “Paging Dr. Ruby”, is our answer to questions clients pose related to our communication best practices.
Building a culture of listening boils down to one simple thing—treat others as you would want to be treated. Take the time to listen to your clients and employees; make them feel heard, cared for, and empowered.