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Listening Skills in Employee-customer Relationship

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First impression is the best impression. This saying is very apt in this employee-customer relationship as behaviors observed in the first meeting will either encourage a customer to approach the same employee again or dislike him for his poor behavior.

Change in personal behaviors to listen better could start with paying attention to the person talking to us. Customers are not perfect people to communicate effectively, but it is up to us to listen intently and come up with ways to guide and help them. Next, we could ask questions or repeat what we hear in order to confirm what we perceive. Hearing the customer without interrupting is necessary in order to formulate solutions. Lastly, one must emanate positive vibes through facial expressions to make customers feel comfortable that they are being listened to, by way of a nod or a smile or an intent look in the eye which pose as good signals for listening.

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As a leader or peer, I would encourage my colleagues to improve their listening skills by giving the following advice:

Don’t just pretend to listen – In order to be a better listener, one must listen to learn and be curious about solving an issue, instead of just pretending to listen and not helping out.

Don’t interrupt the customers – One must let the customers speak and be patient while they finish narrating their incident/ problem rather than interrupting in between and giving wrong guidance.

Don’t add suggestions unnecessarily – If customers are struggling to complete their part of the story, it is better to wait and hear them out until they are done rather than putting in suggestions and completing sentences for them, which is considered to be rude.

Don’t be neglectful towards customers – It is highly appreciated when someone pays attention to what a customer wants to convey rather than asking them to approach other departments for help just because one doesn’t want to listen.

As I work in a startup company, the environmental factors that come with it profoundly affect a person’s listening ability. Often poor physical facilities like compact and small rooms distract a person very quickly, as different people carry different conversations at the same time, resulting in distractions. Also, the effect of environmental noise, i.e. sound of machinery, phone ringtones and buzzers etc. becomes very disturbing at times and undermines focus.

In order to overcome these, one could try to go to a separate room where he could gain focus and listen better and make sure that he isn’t just pretending to listen and that he is able to understand the entire situation correctly. Taking notes is a good way of concentrating and getting all the facts straight too.

Now in order to listen better it is also important that we give others a chance to put forward their concerns and interests and not discourage them by interrupting often or disagreeing with their viewpoints just because the issue is too complicated to be discussed. We ought to respond to customers with positivity and let them know when they are being ambiguous in expression so as to be clear with every piece of our conversation. If one is unable to process the customer concerns in his mind, then he must try to step into the other person’s shoe and think deeply about his part of the story.

Furthermore, one should try to minimize gatekeepers and allow customers to speak to him directly instead of gaining knowledge of their issues through an intermediary. After all, better listening will eventually lead to better understanding.


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