People like to feel and be in control. That thought is not necessarily articulated but when a customer is not in control, he or she is not happy. How can your associates create happy customers? Give the customer your full and complete attention. It’s not sufficient that your associates think they are giving their full attention; the customer needs to feel it.

Here are eight suggestions to give customers your full attention:

  1. Determine the customer’s emotional state: Whenever a customer calls, emails or visits a physical place of business, he or she is in a particular emotional state. The customers could be happy, frustrated, disappointed, concerned or elated. It’s critically important that associates not only listen to what the customer or potential customer is saying but to the underlying emotion as well.
  1. Active listening: After an associate listens to a customer and can determine the underlying emotion, reiterating that emotion helps to build trust. When an associate says, “I hear you are frustrated, but I can help you,” the customer knows he or she is communicating with another person who is willing to help. That help can be an answer to a question, resolve a problem, get advice, etc. Active listening is the first step to create a human connection.
  1. Uncover the story: Every purchase has a story. No one walks into a mall, picks up a phone or emails a customer service department in a vacuum. It’s almost like a treasure hunt with a prize at the end. Is the customer going on a trip, seeking that perfect valentine’s gift, or a watch for their son who just graduated college with honors? Finding out why a person is purchasing an item shows the customer you care.
  1. Don’t make customers wait: When customers are forced to listen to an IVR, stand on long lines for check-out or wait for an associate to help them in person, the communication is multifold: the customers’ time is not important, the company doesn’t know how to properly staff or customers are considered widgets with no feelings.
  1. Listen patiently: There are many famous quotes from equally famous people about listening. “Many a man would rather you heard his story, than grant his request.” (Phillip Stanhope); “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” (Bryant H. McGill); “When you listen, it’s amazing what you can learn. When you act on what you’ve learned, it’s amazing what you can change.” Audrey McLaughlin
  1. Focus on the customer’s needs: Every business syllabus in college or grad school contains a course on sales education instructing students to find out the customer’s needs first. Long lists of services and/or products are not helpful. Every customer is a person with personal and unique needs. Discovering and uncovering those needs is a critical step in the sales cycle.
  1. Communicate through preferred channels: Following-up with customers through the customer’s optimum channel of text, phone or email demonstrates that the associate paid attention, documented the request and wants to build upon the initial relationship.
  1. Obtain customer feedback: Most customer feedback systems fail to uncover true customer feelings. Feedback, if utilized properly, can dramatically help any company prosper. Customers who know that their feedback is considered valuable are more apt to provide detailed responses, comments and suggestions. Without the detail information, changes cannot be made in order to expand and generate repeat business.

We have moved from the Information Age to the Attention Age. With the enormous volume of information available to anyone at anytime, companies that educate their associates about the value of paying attention to what customers are saying and understanding the underlying emotion will reap great benefits. The options of where, when and how to shop are boundless. To keep your customers coming back, paying attention is a most valuable asset. Listen to your customers and hear what they are saying and feeling.

What suggestions do you have for showing customers you are paying attention?

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