The Art of Listening

Posted by: The Teamwork team /

We all think we’re listening to what others say, but what we’re actually doing is hearing their words. Often, we are formulating our response while the other person is talking, thereby missing more of the message or even nuance within it.

As you know, we love listening to our customers, and create our product roadmap to reflect customer needs and desires. We thought it seemed fitting, given that passion for listening, to share some of our tips.

This is our advice on how to get the most out of a customer service call, business conversation, or friendly interaction through the art of effective listening.

Strong listening skills won’t be immediate. You will need to practice until it is habit. These tips are to encourage and guide you to be in the best position to truly listen to your customer or anyone.

Be interested

You are a sleuth seeking out clues as to what has gone wrong with your customer’s experience. Pay attention to details because solving the problem comes down to understanding it.

No matter who the person is or how many times you’ve heard similar issues from different customers, connect with each customer as if their request is the only one that matters – because in that moment, that is true.

Spend more time listening than talking to ensure you are putting the customer first and showing that you are very interested.

Don’t interrupt

You may think you know where this is going, or be feeling bored hearing about the customer’s situation surrounding the actual issue (like a fishing trip and a broken washing machine or big boss visiting, and the office internet crashed), but each situation and its causes are unique.

Let the person finish before assuming to know the problem and then consider the factors and make an informed response after the customer is done explaining.

The exception to this is if the customer goes off-topic about an unrelated issue that is way outside your purview (such as a broken down car or romantic entanglement) and you need to gently interject supportive and refocusing words to resolve the issue you are armed to resolve.

Represent your brand

Above all else, you are the face and voice of your company when interacting with any customer, so put your best self forward. This means setting aside emotional reactions and reacting calmly and thoughtfully, without personal bias.

Impulsive and defensive responses will only escalate a customer service issue to a customer relations nightmare, especially when nearly everyone is on social media and more likely to post about a bad experience than a good one. The hashtags #YouHadOneJob and #EpicFail haunt missteps such as this.

Respond thoughtfully

After listening and collecting clues to solve your customer’s problem, you are ready to respond with follow-up questions or a suggested approach to solve the issue, such as turning it off and turning it back on again.

First, respond using the person’s name, which you no doubt have on file or asked at the start of the interaction. Personability goes a long way. Use open-ended questions to gather information then be quiet and listen to the response.

Respond to what is being said thoughtfully, as if you are taking a reading comprehension test and addressing the real core of the issue. Be cautious to limit technical jargon and internal terms as it may make customers feel even more lost. Be specific and as descriptive as possible to avoid confusion.

Being truly listened to creates a sense of satisfaction for the person talking and makes the listener much better informed than if just hearing.

In our August interview with women leaders in higher education, an astounding number responded that effective listening was an essential leadership skill. Not the ability to multitask, not ambition, and not strong public speaking skills – listening.


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Evin O'Keeffe

Definitely, Steven. Open-ended questions are by far more engaging and especially helpful for understanding and gathering information. Thanks for reading!


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