With distractions all around us, it is no surprise that many people struggle to remain focused and actively listen to conversations at hand. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, most adults retain only about 20-25% percent of what has been communicated to them.

Think about this in a customer service interaction: An encounter with a distracted representative will inevitably lead to frustration and a high effort experience for customers. How do we reinforce active listening on our teams to ensure effortless experiences for our customers?

Effortless Experience’s findings on active listening

Our Effortless Experience™ team regularly listens to customer service interactions where we hear representatives catch a key phrase or a few words and jump into action. When this happens, representatives tend to:

  • Interrupt with a response as soon as the customer takes a pause
  • Believe they are right, and the customer is wrong
  • Make incorrect assumptions about what the customer needs

Where customer frustration kicks in

When representatives spring into action, they are likely trying to get off the phone quicker and give their solution to the customers before they have had a chance to fully explain their problem. While it is easy for the representative to have this expectation when they see the same issue three or four times that day, they need to be aware that solutions are not a one size fits all. What works for one customer may not work for another.

Promoting active listening

While reps should always be listening, active listening is making the conscious effort to lean in and shut out all disruptions—really be attentive to what the customer is saying. It is more than just a soft skill. If a representative is attentive, it ensures they are engaged in a two-way conversation, rather than passively taking in what the customer is saying.

Active listening lays a foundation for any successful customer service interaction. By committing their full attention to an interaction, representatives keep the focus on the customer experience, which reduces the chances of miscommunications, while also making the client feel valued and heard.

Attentiveness is the key to active listening

How can representatives actively listen and be attentive to customers?

  1. Listen and Confirm: Representatives need to listen without formulating an immediate response. By using simple phrases like “Okay” or “I understand” reps can confirm with customers they are actively listening before confirming their issue. Remember, representatives cannot listen if they are speaking.
  2. Seek Clarification: Oftentimes, representatives are not entirely sure why a customer is contacting the company. This may lead to incorrect assumptions about both the problem and the solution. To prevent this, representatives need to ask clarifying questions. The upfront time spent here will reduce customer frustration and time later in the process.
  3. Paraphrase and Probe: Customers want to feel heard. To accomplish this, customer service representatives should pause, reflect, and ask questions. Representatives should repeat and paraphrase what a customer says to demonstrate care and understanding. This reduces frustration and lets the representative develop a clearer understanding of the problem. Responses such as “What I’m hearing is” or “Let me gather all this information correctly” build rapport.

Increasing customer loyalty through the service experience

We have all experienced interactions with customer service representatives who simply follow a script and lack interest in solving issues. These interactions erode trust and confidence. Customers want candid and human-driven experiences. Remember: If your current customers encounter representatives who seem disinterested or distracted, they can—and will—go elsewhere.

Challenger, Inc.

Challenger is the global leader in training, technology, and consulting to win today’s complex sale. Our sales transformation and training programs are supported by ongoing research and backed by our best-selling books, The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer, and The Effortless Experience.