How to Listen to Customers Effectively

Gladly Team

Read Time

6 minute read

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The role for any customer service agent is to listen to customers effectively. Customers can provide valuable feedback that can help you improve your product or service, and they can alert you to issues that may be holding your company back.

But listening effectively to customers is easier said than done, and building an entire team of customer service agents that are active listeners is a downright challenge.

Below, learn how to listen to customers effectively, the importance of creating a team that deeply listens to customers, and how to find and build a team of service agents that are active listeners. Also provided are tips for training your team to be effective listeners.

Why active listening is important in customer service

In short: Actively listening to customers can help you improve your business. When you listen to your customers, you can gather their feedback; which is the key to understanding how they truly feel about the products and services you deliver.

[Read More: Assessments for Call Center Agents]

5 examples of active listening for call center reps:

  1. Building trust and rapport.
  2. Demonstrating concern over issues or requests.
  3. Repeating and paraphrasing the problem to show you understand and hear the customer.
  4. Nonverbal cues for in-person or video communications, such as eye contact and leaning in.
  5. Verbal affirmations after the customer makes a statement to show you’re present such as “I see,” “I know,” or “I totally get it.”

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How to improve your listening skills in customer service

As a customer service representative, call center agent, or contact center agent, it’s natural to want to improve your active listening skills and those of your team.

To become an active listener and build rapport with customers, you’ll want to get with your team or a team member and practice weekly. The key is to focus on single one of the active listening tips for call centers below, and regularly work on that one skill. The key is repetition.

For example: If you wanted to become a more effective listener to customers, you may want to focus on showing empathy through verbal affirmations. After they raise their concern or issue, you would focus on following up with “Oh wow. I’m so sorry to hear that.” The more you focus on improving this one skill, the more it will become a regular part of your customer service communications.

[Read More: Customer Service Tone Tips]

10 active listening skills for call center agents

  1. Actively show that you’re tracking what your customer is saying. Use statements such as “I see,” “I understand,” etc. Following your customers statements with tracking statements lets them know you’re following what they’re saying.
  2. Never interrupt. Don’t interrupt your customers when they’re talking, unless you’re acknowledging their input with tracking statements. But never cut them off or interrupt them as they’re voicing their concerns.
  3. Demonstrate concern. Empathy is one of the top traits that customers want when speaking to a contact center agent. Being an effective listener also means you should be empathetic and understanding of their issue(s).
  4. Avoid distractions. Especially when handling multiple tickets or complaints, it can be easy to become distracted. However, when working to resolve a customer issue, you’ll want to avoid distractions at all costs.
  5. Repeat and/or paraphrase. Show customers that you care and are being an active listener by repeating and paraphrasing what they say, so they know you understand.
  6. Ask questions. Part of being an effective listener means asking questions so you can get to the bottom of the issue, and how you can help resolve it.
  7. Avoid arguing or becoming defense. Unfortunately, upset customers will naturally try and take their frustration out on you. It’s important that you listen to their issues and refrain from arguing or becoming defense.
  8. Build trust. As you speak to customers, make sure you use an empathetic and friendly tone. While doing this, let customers know that you’re doing everything in your power to help them. They need to know that you are a champion here to defend them, not an obstacle in their way.
  9. Be personable. Try to relate to customers as you speak with them. This will show that you’re actively listening and help to make the experience better for them.
  10. Use positive language. When dealing with customer issues, try to refrain from using negative language. For example, instead of saying “don’t hit the red button”, you would want to say “the green button is the best choice.” Positive language helps to take away the stress that comes with customer service calls.

Final thoughts: How to listen to customers effectively

The importance of listening skills in customer service can’t be overstated. Although listening to customers effectively takes a variety of skills, many of these skills can be learned personally or from team training. If you manage or hire candidates for a customer service team, start the process early by identifying potential candidates who already possess the traits needed for success in a customer service role. Be sure to use strategic customer service interview questions to evaluate these candidates as you build your team.

As we start to take customer service teams more remote, we also recommend reading our checklist of the 12 Must-Haves for Your Remote Customer Service Team. In this free guide, you’ll learn how you can quickly build and take your customer service team remote.

About Gladly

Gladly is a customer service platform for digitally-focused B2C companies who want to maximize the lifetime value of their customers.   Unlike the legacy approach to customer service software, which is designed around a ticket or case to enable workflows, Gladly enables radically personal customer service centered around people to sustain customer loyalty and drive more revenue.

The world’s most innovative consumer companies like Godiva, JOANN, and TUMI use Gladly to create lasting customer relationships, not one-off experiences. 

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