The Art Of Listening To Others
Written By: Ibby Smith Stofer
The art of listening to others is becoming a lost art. Remember when your grandma endlessly explained how to make her special cake? She stressed each step and demonstrated it, sometimes she would answer your questions along the way, but mostly it was her show-and-tell demonstration, and we listened, and we learned. (We also enjoyed some yummy cake!)
Or watching Dad teach us the proper way to use his tools? We listened, and it was not as hard as it seems today. What has happened to us? Are we really that knowledgeable? Can YouTube videos be the only way to learn a skill or recipe? Do you really need to scroll through the video? Is your sense of urgency so important that interacting with another person is too time-consuming? Do you learn, or do you just do, and if you have to do it again, you repeat the video?
What if the results are different than expected? Who do you ask to discover why things turned out different than expected?
Unfortunately, in too many households and communities, there is little interaction with seniors who have walked the walk before us and learned the right and the wrong way to do things. We are so oriented to immediacy and technology that instead of reaching across generations to grandparents, neighbors, or others, we either jump right into things or, we sit searching the internet and listening to endless videos that may or may not relate.
As with the cooking or power tool references illustrated in the past, things and people moved at a different pace. In general, we tended to be more patient and used these experiences to not only learn but to appreciate the ones from whom we learned.
Let's look at how this relates to sales and customer service.
A potential customer has reached out to your company either via phone or your website. Luckily, they are in your territory, so the request is directed to you. When it hits your voicemail or inbox, you scan it. Your calendar is hectic for the next few days. Deciding it can wait and does not appear urgent, you set it aside.
L Look for clues in the tone of the message, be it voice or email.
I Inform of receipt and timeframe for a response.
S Schedule time to understand the customer's issues and concerns.
T Test understanding by asking open-ended questions and restating points.
E Explore the why and not just the request.
N Never assume that every customer's needs are the same.
Over the next day or two, the customer becomes concerned that there was no response to their first request, so they repeat their request and leave a direct voice message after getting your contact number from your company. You can tell they are frustrated or annoyed by their tone.
You may feel that they are harsh and unfair in judging your responsiveness. After all, they have no idea what else you are handling right now. You decide to make a quick call and let them know that you are working on their request. When they answer, you explain that things have been really backed up and apologize for not answering right away.
They accept your apology and start to detail their request and ask a lot of questions. You feel that they should have done some research already and should know that the answer is to buy your top-of-the-line solution. You jump in as soon as they take a breath and tell them that all of their competitors use this product or solution, that you are sure they will be very happy with it, and you offer to send them links to your site that details the benefits and testimonials.
They agree, and the call ends. You assume that this is a live one and add it to your forecast. You may even think to thank corporate for the referral.
Let's delve into the thoughts of the customer.
"The company and rep took their sweet time to connect. I should not have to make multiple attempts to get a response."
"The rep did not let me explain our situation and apparently thinks that all situations and customers need the same solution."
"The rep was so interested in explaining why I should be a me-too buyer that I will never do business with that company."
Both parties have had a very bad experience. Could it have gone differently? Perhaps.
Some experts would suggest that sales or a corporate contact could have acknowledged the request and set customer expectations differently with some simple steps.
“ Listen and let others know you respect them enough to hear them. The old saying goes, “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
While this sounds simple, with our hectic schedules and workloads, we sometimes forget to simply listen and let the customers tell us their story before we lead with an answer that may not solve the real issue or question. Don’t let the skills you learned at the table of your elders slip away and leave your family and friends wondering if you have any idea what they are saying. Listen and let others know you respect them enough to hear them. The old saying goes, “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”