Listening to Customers Makes You More MoneyPosted 4/4/2007
By Patrick J. Donadio, MBA, CSP, MCC
How do you define quality service for your customer? If you have already begun to answer this question, then you have fallen into a common trap. I believe that we don't define quality customer service, the customer does.
It is my belief that quality is whatever the customer says it is. The customer may want it fast, they may want the best price, and/or they may want the best product regardless of price. Only the customer can truly define what quality means for them.
To define quality, you must first listen to your customers. Your customers will tell you what they want if you ask and listen.
An old Turkish proverb says, "If speaking is silver, then listening is gold."
Listening is gold when it comes to business. To better serve customers, deliver quality service and make more money, we need to be better listeners.
Your mental state has a big influence on your listening ability. According to Dr. Eric Berne, there are three modes of behavior, which are referred to as transactional analysis (TA). They are child mode, parent mode and adult mode. The mode you are in influences how you see the world and thus affects what you hear.
When you're in child mode, anger and despair dominate reason. When you're in parent mode, you can be controlling and judgmental (much like a parent). If others are not doing it the right way, you will respond by telling them so. The best mode to be in is the adult mode. In the adult mode, you focus on the facts, the situation or the behavior and not the person. You are neutral and open, listening to the customer without the biases of the other two modes.
Remember that people form an impression of you in seven seconds. So getting mentally ready also means checking your body posture and remembering to smile (if on the phone, smile with your voice). If possible, grab a pen and paper and be ready to take brief, but specific notes. Your mental state of mind will affect your listening, so be sure to get in the "adult state of mind."
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood" is one of the seven principles from Dr. Stephen Covey's book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." First, ask questions and then shut up and listen. Don't prejudge the issue or blurt out answers or solutions. Remember quality is whatever the customer says it is. Listen for needs, wants, desires and challenges. All of these answers will provide clues to better servicing the customer and helping them to buy from you.
Even if you think you know what your customers said, you still want to "check for understanding." Some studies show that as much as 70 percent to 90 percent of a message is screened by the receiver. Don't assume you know what they said. Check it out. Ask questions for clarification, check for accuracy or ask them to repeat the information again. If they inform you that you don't have it correctly, then let them tell you what they meant. Never assume anything. Again, the key is to identifying customers' needs and wants. This happens by actively listening.
The following techniques will help you actively get involved in the listening process and make you more gold. These tips are not in any specific order. As you read the list, focus on any ideas you tend not to use on a regular basis and put them into practice.
Next time you are talking with a customer or a prospect, try using these techniques. Who knows? You might be able to save time, make more money or even increase the quality of your service with these easy concepts.
I like to close this article about listening with a quote from one of my favorite motivational speakers, Zig Ziglar. He said: "People don't care how much you know until you show how much you care."
By being a good listener, you will not only make more money now, it will help you build better relationships to increase your revenues in the long run.
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