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How Improving Customer Service Starts with Becoming a Better Listener

Becoming a better listener is easy to say and hard to do. But it doesn’t have to be if you follow these quick tips on your next customer service call.

Improving customer service starts with being a better listener. If we can listen with the intent to understand, as Stephen Covey first articulated it, then we can avoid listening as most people do–with the intent to reply. Try these quick tips for better listening the next time you find yourself in conversation with a customer that has an issue, and I think you’ll be surprised by how positive the outcome of that conversation can be.

Listen without interrupting. Our understanding and enthusiasm for correcting a customer’s concern can sometimes lead us to interrupt them in mid-sentence. Keep in mind that no matter how quickly we think we can pick up on a customer’s concern, no one likes being rushed or having their sentences finished for them. Listen like you have no place to be but right there with that customer.

Listen for understanding. If your customer has reached out via phone, they have likely tried solving their problem without success via your company’s printed materials or website. They have likely already tried  X, Y and Z to solve their issue, and it is important to understand exactly what they have tried so that you can better diagnose their problem. We need to listen to our customers with total understanding as our goal.

Take notes. One of the simplest ways to show that you are actively listening is to take notes. This works equally well on the phone, or in-person. On the phone, your customer will hear the tone of your phone change as you jot down notes about their concern, and they will often hear your keyboard strokes or the sound of your pen across a pad of paper. In-person, it is encouraging to see a sales rep jotting down notes. To customers, their concerns are important and important things are–without exception–written down.

Repeat what your customer is saying in your own words. After listening without interrupting with total understanding as the goal, and then writing down a few notes in reference to a customer’s concern, it’s time to repeat back what you have heard in your own words. We do this for two reasons. First, we need to make certain that we have heard our customer correctly. The only thing worse than not solving a customer’s problem is solving the wrong problem entirely. Second, we want to demonstrate to our customer’s that when they have a concern–making it right is of vital importance to us–which is why we repeat back what we have heard for accuracy.

Ask clarifying questions. Finally, ask one or two clarifying questions. We do this in order to make certain that we’ve zeroed in on the right issue, but we also do this to root out any other issues the customer may be having–but not vocalizing.

Want to learn more about best practices for customer service in agricultural sales? Click here to download our free worksheet that will help you assess your current level of skill in building customer loyalty as an ag-sales professional!

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