Active Listening to Improve Customer Relationships by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
Our customers are our business’ lifeline. No matter your area of business, understanding, or not understanding them, your customers can make you or break you. Unfortunately, many of us fail to develop the listening skills that can take us to the next level in our customer relationships. Here are some tips to help you improve your listening skills so that you can deepen your relationship with your clients.
- Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. This common habit plagues many of us in both business and personal relationships. When someone else is talking, it is very tempting to spend that time formulating your response, rather than really listening to what the other person is saying. Wait until the person is finished speaking to formulate your response, and you will find that you have heard more of what they were trying to tell you. You may feel that this slows down the conversation, but it is well worth the small amount of extra time it might take.
- Don’t go in with an agenda. This bad habit is common in many sales people. Sales professionals are driven to get the sale. Sometimes, unintentionally, it can be at the expense of the long-term relationship. It isn’t wise to always assume you know what your customer needs. By really listening before you make a decision on trying to sell the customer, you may find that you didn’t understand their needs as well as you thought. You can then alter your presentation or offering to better fit their needs as they see them. Over the long term, this is a better selling strategy, because it creates loyal customers.
- Be sure they know you’re listening. With practice, your listening skills will get better, but it is important to demonstrate this to customers. Ask probing questions, and repeat the concerns you hear from customers back to them. When you paraphrase their concerns back to them as you move through the conversation, they know you heard their needs, and they believe that you care. This also ensures that any miscommunications get cleared up right away.
In our fast paced world, good listening skills do not come naturally. Just like any other business skill, however, these can be learned and perfected with time. Active listening is an area often overlooked in the business climate, but it can make a significant difference in how you are perceived by your customers. When your customers know that you care about what they have to say, and that you understand their needs, they become customers for life.