Frequently, salespeople and service representatives become so focused on what they want to say about their product or service that they fail to actively listen to the customer. Not listening–and even worse not comprehending what is being said—is a surefire way to ruin the customer experience.

Employees with great active listening skills are able to quickly pinpoint customers’ needs and desires, match needs and desires with the best product or service, and expertly guide them through the call.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a four-step process that teaches employees to focus on the caller, listen for key information, listen for key feelings, and clarify their understanding of what is being said.

Step 1: Focus on the customer.

To best serve and support customers, call center agents must learn to give callers 100% of their attention, from the start of the call to the end. Customer service training that includes active listening techniques will commonly suggest that employees imagine that they are sitting across from callers. This visualization method encourages employees to focus on what is being said by callers, and to pay attention to details like tone, word usage, and voice volume.

Step 2: Listen for key information.

Identifying key information is integral to providing great service and support. When an employee uses active listening skills to pinpoint customer desires, needs, and problems, average handle time decreases and customer satisfaction increases. Quickly highlighting the reason for the call allows the agent to progress through each call faster, which frees up time to handle a higher number of calls per day.

Step 3: Listen for key feelings.

Feelings are just as important as facts. When employees notice customer feelings it gives them clues as to how best they can handle the call. If a caller is upset or appears to be short on time, noticing this feeling will give the employee an advantage. When faced with a hurried customer, an agent can state the time required to complete a request so the caller knows exactly how much time they will need to dedicate to get the desired results. Using active listening skills to determine feelings is a proven way to provide personalized service and support that customers will appreciated.

Step 4: Clarify understanding.

Clarification of understanding is the final step successful active listening. To reinforce that caller desires, needs, problems have been heard and understood, employees can paraphrase the customer and ask a confirming question. For example, if a customer is having issues with a new laptop the agent could say, “You said earlier that laptop turns off unexpectedly, but reboots ok – is that correct?” Restating what a customer said reassures the customer that they have been heard and their request will be taken care of. Customer service training that incorporates active listening skills gives employees the tools they need to effectively hear and understand customers, and appropriately convey their understanding back to customers.

Benefits of Active Listening

The above steps will assist employees in building rapport with customers and quickly processing requests. When employees actively listen—customers will notice! Equipping agents with the tools to proactively serve and support customers will increase your center’s productivity, and increase revenue.