How to actively listen to customers?
The skill of active listening, as every skill, is mostly used at an intuitive level; we are not aware of it, but certainly it can be improved and developed. It is essential that if you want to find out how to listen to someone, first of all think about how would you like for someone to listen to you. Here are twelve practical tips to help you to actively listen to your customers:
1. Face to face
Sit upright and lean slightly forward to show your companion your deep attention through body language. Do not forget, body language tells you much more than your words.
2. Keep eye-to-eye contact
Of course you shouldn’t stare! Eye contact should make your customer feel comfortable and not threated.
3. Reduce the disturbance
Turn off the TV, radio, music, close the window. Remove the book or a magazine that you hold in your hand. Ask the customer to do the same and devote full attention to the conversation.
4. Show clearly that you understand
Nod your head, give vocal signals from time to time that you understand. Lift your eyebrows. Use words like: ‘’really’’, ‘’Interesting’’, and ask many direct questions as: What did you do then? Or what did she say? Or what does that mean?
5. Focus on the customer’s speech
Do not try to think about what you will say next, but rather focus on what your customer says. Let the conversation follow its own logical stream, so you will only get involved when a customer and conversation demand it.
6. Reduce internal disturbance
If your thoughts are too loud, just allow them to pass through and continually return the focus to the customer. If you used to meditate, that's it. Do not try to force unwanted thoughts, but just let them come and go without your intervention.
7. Have an open mind
Always wait for the customer to finish his thoughts before you decide to disagree with him. Do not make premature conclusions before you hear all the arguments and fully understand the customer.
8. Do not show that you have previous experiences
If you happen to have been in similar situations, do not let the customer see it. First, wait to hear everything you need to hear, and then only connect with previous experiences, because a person often makes the wrong conclusions based on experiences that he does not actually remember as well as he thinks.
9. Even if the customer complains about you, wait
Research shows that we can listen up to four times faster than we can talk, so we have the ability to analyze ideas about as they are coming up and to be ready to continually receive new ideas. So there's no reason to rush with reactions. Also, if you wait, the customer will realize that you have heard his attitude so that he does not have to repeat it without need.
10. Be active
Ask questions to get clarifications, but wait until the customer is finished. So you will not break their course of thought, and it will be easier to understand. When you ask your questions, paraphrase their attitude to make sure you understand it well (repeat it). Start with: So you said ...
11. Repeat with your own words
To show that you listened carefully, repeat from time to time, in form of paraphrasing, what you heard. You can say this: To see if I understood you well ...
12. Give feedback
Show your initial thoughts in relation to the situation. Share with your customer the appropriate information, observation, and experience. Then listen carefully to confirm it.
As you develop these active listening skills, you may experience panic when there are natural breaks in a conversation. Unfortunately, we are used to having no break in the conversation, but to fight with our interlocutor who will say more. Let there be a break in the conversation, and use that silence to better understand each possible point of view. You will notice how your listening skills improve, so you will enjoy conversation, which will no longer be an ardent struggle, as we are otherwise accustomed to.