If you can train your customer service staff to properly demonstrate reflective listening with your customers, it will naturally lead to a plethora of positive benefits.
The business has always been about the customer. However, modern technology has only made personalized customer transactions that much more important.
From the moment a consumer makes the first contact with your brand, you must maintain a user-friendly, customer-centric experience for them. While a good customer experience can start with targeted ads, segmented email lists, or optimized websites, it should continue right on through to your customer support team.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your customer service effectiveness, you don’t have to look further than reflective listening.
What Is Reflective Listening
Communication has long been acknowledged as an important part of business activity. In an era where remote work is becoming increasingly more common, the ability to properly communicate has become more important than ever before.
However, when it comes to your customer service staff, you have to consider more than just what communication channels are available. You should also address the kind of communication that is (or isn’t) taking place.
This is where reflective listening comes into play. The University of New South Wales defines reflective listening as “a communication skill by which students can increase their understanding of other people’s ideas, issues, approaches, and concerns within the group.” The academic site also adds that reflective listening is “a particularly useful skill for avoiding conflict within a group.”
The way reflective listening looks when it is applied is fairly simple. It requires a listener to restate what they’ve heard. In doing so, they should attempt to demonstrate that they understand what was communicated as well as detail any points that require further clarification.
The Benefits of Reflective Listening
While the educational definition focuses on students and internal academic groups, the concept of reflective listening very easily translates to the workplace as well. When applied in a business setting, reflective listening can yield many benefits. For instance, it can:
- Increase the efficiency and productiveness of each conversation through greater understanding.
- Aid in the proper communication and dissemination of information regarding a specific issue or problem.
- Reduce hostility and frustration through empathy and understanding.
- Help repair, build and maintain relationships with existing customers.
- Improve customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth referrals.
From happy customers to effective customer service reps to a solid brand reputation, there are many reasons to have your customer service team focus on reflective listening.
How to Naturally Implement Reflective Listening
While the need for reflective listening is greater than ever, it can be difficult to implement it in the workplace. This is especially difficult because this form of listening doesn’t simply require practice or the regurgitation of information. It takes subtle interpersonal skills such as self-control and empathy.
In other words, you may need more than a quick training session to get reflective listening to stick. If you’re trying to improve your staff’s ability to reflectively listen to your customers, here are a few suggestions to help you cultivate the skill naturally throughout your entire team.
Start with Internal Communications
Before implementing reflective listening with your customers, you should encourage your staff to utilize it with each other first. This allows you to tap into a plethora of benefits that can indirectly improve your team’s reflective listening abilities.
For instance, as your employees proactively listen to one another, it can help them understand each diverse opinion and perspective. This understanding of diversity in the workplace can naturally improve your customer service as each staff member learns to see interactions through the eyes of customers rather than themselves.
There’s an old nursery rhyme that John D. Rockefeller used to quote. It ran “A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why aren’t we all like that old bird?” This ancient wisdom is priceless, especially when it comes to reflective listening.
If you want your customer service staff to organically learn to reflect other’s thoughts and feelings well, encourage them to listen first and speak second.
While listening is of the utmost importance, there always comes a time when each employee must take their turn to respond. Responding in an empathetic and reflective way, although seemingly simple, can retain your customers even during rough times.
Remember, part of reflective listening is speaking a customer’s words back to them to understand and further clarify their concerns. By encouraging your staff to respond boldly in this manner, you can help them respond to each customer with confident assurance throughout each interaction.
Remove Unnecessary Tasks
Another quietly effective way to implement reflective listening measures is to remove other tasks and responsibilities that are taking up your team’s time.
For example, you can utilize CCaaS (contact center as a service) software to organize your customer service system and reduce the workload on your employees. CCaaS tech enables you to introduce business process automation (BPA) and machine learning capabilities that help connect customers with the precise representative most qualified to answer their questions.
This helps prevent situations where customers are being bounced from one rep to another as you search for a solution to their problem.
It’s easy for customer service representatives to slowly slip into a state of apathy as they move from one interaction to the next. This can be exacerbated when they are expected to act in the same manner.
Instead, encourage your staff to be personal in their interactions. Of course, you should always have basic branding and employee handbook resources in place, so that everyone’s tone, demeanor, and information remains uniform.
However, beyond these basics, encourage each individual to be personal and human in their conversations. This can help to keep customer interactions warm and friendly as you reflect and validate each customer’s concerns.
Learning to Value and Demonstrate Reflective Listening
The ability to listen to and effectively empathize with others is not an easy task. It’s a soft skill that requires deep understanding, practice, and commitment.
Nevertheless, if you can train your customer service staff to properly demonstrate reflective listening with your customers, it will naturally lead to a plethora of positive benefits.
So review your current situation and look for areas where you can naturally implement reflective listening. The results will positively impact your customer satisfaction, brand reputation, employees’ skill sets, and even your bottom line.
Bio: Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. Her areas of expertise and topics she typically covers revolve around customer service and experience, and retention strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter: @HamiltonJori