One of the best team-mates I ever had was a Level 1 listener. His ability was amazing. It was as though each word was being documented and analyzed as they came out of his customer’s mouth. The magic transferred into an uncanny knack of knowing what the customer was trying to say – sometimes even before she had finished explaining.
There are three levels of listening:
• Level 1. You give the customer (or the person you’re in conversation with) your full attention.
• Level 2. Your attention ranges from partial to full, and you pick up on the major themes of the conversation.
• Level 3. Your attention is elsewhere. We’ve all been here — like the time you asked someone how they’re doing, they start to answer and you immediately start to think about your to-do list.
Listening at Level 1 means not allowing distractions to interfere with your efforts to hear and understand what the customer is telling you.
But is Level 1 listening enough? Not quite, but it’s a good start. If the goal is to understand the customer’s need, two more skills are needed to uncover hidden gems of information that will help you assist them.
Ask open and closed questions
Getting a complete picture of the customer’s needs requires you to ask a strategic mix of open and closed questions:
• Open questions invite extended answers.
• Closed questions invite a word or short phrase.
This is important because open questions allow you to get the big picture of the customer’s needs, while closed questions allows you to zero in on the details. This way, you have a much deeper understanding of the customer’s issues and can use your expertise to help solve them.
Confirm your understanding
To show the customer that you both share a common understanding, you confirm your understanding of customer needs with a three-step process:
1. Repeat key words and phrases the customer has used.
2. Summarize the customer’s situation in your own words.
3. Check for customer agreement.
It’s these additional two skills that allow you to expand your information gathering (don’t forget to keep listening!) and then repeat it back to the person in a meaningful way.
By using these three skills in a customer service interaction, your customers will not only feel more connected to your employees, but the potential rewards are much greater: increased customer loyalty and new business through positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
To learn more about how you can develop a more loyal customer base, contact us today.