How to Listen to Your Customers

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Welcome to the new world of business!  Here managers focus on a barrage of global economic and political uncertainties, changing workplaces, ethical issues, security threats, and changing technology. At the same time, managers recognize that delivering consistent, high-quality customer service to an international customer base is essential for survival and success in today’s competitive environment.  As a result, high quality translation services are a critical for understanding non-English speaking customers.

Adapting the mantra of “Customer first” means placing even greater importance on listening to customers. By adapting this mantra, companies are achieve increased sales, greater profitability, improved customer acquisition and retention. Essentially, customers want to do business with and buy from businesses that respect and value their opinions. When companies listen to and respect their customers, they construct the foundation for building a powerful bond.  This company and customer bond fulfills a powerful need.

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How Can Companies Listen to Customers?

Companies have a wide range of options for generating feedback from customers.  They can listen and respond to customer comments on social media, company blogs, e-mail messages and telephone calls. Regardless of how feedback is generated, a company must have highly skilled and well-trained employees who genuinely care about customers. Training such employees involves teaching them to practice active listening that emphasizes courtesy and gentle probing to clarify unclear concepts. Because today’s marketplace is increasingly global and multicultural, employees must also be skilled in communicating with non-native speakers. The following are a few suggestions for improving listening:

  • Become an Active Listener- Regardless of how customers voice their opinions, show them you are genuinely concerned.  If you are responding in-person, ensure that your eye contact, posture, and movements express interest. If responding to an e-mail or social media post, respond quickly and ask meaningful questions.  If you must respond to more than two questions to resolve a problem, make a phone call.
  • Minimize Distractions – Offer to move a conversation from a loud or disruptive environment to one that is more conducive to listening, speaking and problem-solving.
  • Recognize Key Facts – Sometimes customers interject unrelated facts and opinions into their conversations.  To understand critical details, sort them out from opinions, assertions, inaccurate details and irrelevant facts.  Learn to identify people who may not be capable of providing credible accounts.
  • Avoid interrupting – Remember that interrupting is impolite.  Interruptions can be verbal on non-verbal.  Examples of non-verbal interruptions are negative head shaking, rolling eyes, sarcastic snorting, or audible sighs. Good listeners are courteous listeners and allow customers to have their say.  Aside from being impolite, disruptions prevent customers from sharing their complete thoughts.
  • Ask for Clarification – At times, all listeners need to ask for clarification.  When doing so, state your question carefully and in a non-threatening manner.  Always use open ended questions that are free of feelings, motivations, ideas, and suggestions.  After you ask a question, stop and let the customer answer.
  • Paraphrase – After customers express their ideas, complaints or concerns, summarize these issues and restate their feedback to ensure your understanding of their meaning.

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