Dispel Active Listening Misconceptions

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention”.- Rachel Naomi Remen

Each of us is listening or pretending to listen daily in different situations and with different people. Sometimes the pretence is discovered and sometimes not and when discovered in personal relations it can be cause of some strife. However, in the realm of Customer Service it is hardly ever possible to get away with not listening actively. It is an active process which must be undertaken consciously if customers are to be served well. Only when listening actively can customer service agents understand and interpret what the customer is saying and would help to respond to the customer’s needs better. Active listening also helps the agents to keep an open mind and be less stressed when dealing with customers as they would know in the first instance what the customer wants. It also reduces the number of complaints and keeps the customer’s dissatisfaction levels down. New ideas and creative thinking is also made possible through active listening.

Despite the importance of active listening, there are many false notions and it is important to dispel active listening misconceptions if agents seek to better customer service levels. These misconceptions only serve to lower the effectiveness of listening and it imperative for customer service agents to get rid of them and be trained appropriately for the same.

– Among the top active listening misconceptions, people believing that the skills that are required to listen actively are very tough to learn. This is probably because of the circumstances someone has been brought up in, the kind of motivation available to listen, inherent characteristics and life experiences. Customer service agents can not take active listening for granted as that would make them indifferent to what customers are actually saying. This active listening misconception can be done away with through constant practice and undergoing regular training for the same. How well customer service agents listen determines the level of customer satisfaction as customers do not have the time or the inclination to repeat what they communicated. If the customer service agent is stuck in these active misconceptions, it is unlikely that they would ever be able to resolve a customer’s problem efficiently and swiftly. And both these criteria form the basis of effective customer service. It is worth everyone’s time and investment to learn, practice and constantly better themselves in the art of active listening and companies must ensure that this quality is given high priority and is also part of each person’s performance appraisal. Active listening misconceptions lead to problems within teams and the larger organization as well and are potentially damaging when they exist in relation to customers.

– Another of the active listening misconceptions is customer service agents overestimating their listening capabilities. The thought of “I am a great listener” gives them false notions about their abilities and also serves to undermine the capability of another person’s listening and or communication skills. Customer service agents who believe that they are listening correct and it is the person speaking to them who is unable to get their point across will reflect in their attitude. Customers can get quite infuriated and impatient with this complacence and brazen attitude. This is perhaps the most ridiculous of active listening misconceptions as active and effective listening is determined by the level of understanding gained immediately from what the speaker is conveying. Customer service agents in particular require to grasp the fact that active listening is a skill and an attitude that requires practice and nurturing. The fact that an agent believes that he or she is a good listener without actually showing the benefits means that this person is not really listening.

– Another of the active listening misconceptions is that one must be extremely intelligent to listen carefully. There is no scientific basis of this – intelligence has nothing to do with making someone a great listener. It may be easier to process information better if one has a great vocabulary but that does not make the person an active listener. Within the customer service realm, if the agents feel that their communication skills and cognitive abilities make them better listeners without actually listening actively, then they are headed for disaster and there is sure to be a rise in customer dissatisfaction which will hurt the company. Customer service agents should in fact be trained to develop a higher emotional quotient since such people find it easier to consider the customer’s emotional needs as well. Agents who have an inflated sense of intelligence are more likely to be ‘put off’ more easily by the conversations with customers since they would assume that they “heard this before.”

– People who read are more active listeners is another of the active listening misconceptions. Customer service agents and team members who are active readers probably feel that since they are constantly absorbing written material it would be easier for them to understand what customers are saying even without really listening to understand. It is very easy for customers to comprehend when the company representative is actually listening and when they are only putting on a show. Being lied to or an attempt to fool customers, is enough to drive customers away and also spread such things to their friends and associates leading to a serious dent in the reputation of the company.

– Customer service agents must be aware of the fact that hearing is not the same as listening. Simply hearing a customer would only enable them to hear the words of the customer as sounds without really being able to interpret the feeling and or meaning behind them. Very often customers may be conveying more than just the spoken word through tone of voice, gestures, body language and such and without active listening, a customer service agent is extremely likely to interpret only the words and miss out on a complete understanding. This leaves customers extremely impatient leading to lowered satisfaction levels and may be even taking their business away from the company concerned.

– Listening is not a big deal and comes automatically is another of the active listening misconceptions. Active listening involves empathy, concentration and a genuine effort to understand what the customer is saying.

– When words are spoken everyone hears exactly the same thing so how is listening changing anything – a prevalent of the active listening misconceptions. Words and sentences tend to have different meanings for each person due to their interpretation. The chances of misunderstanding are very high if active listening is absent. It takes interest, determination and focused effort to be a true active listener. If a customer service agent comes from a background where hearing suffices then they would have a lot of unlearning to do and would need to break away from the habit if they are to serve the customers with a high level of service.

Customer service agents must be wilful and purposeful when listening and need to constantly remind themselves and those around them that their main aim is to truly listen to what the customer is saying. They must listen without any misconceptions, judgements and concentrate on what the customer is trying to convey beyond words. Only through active listening can they ask the relevant questions and repeat their understanding of what the customer’s expectations. If they are under the spell of active listening misconceptions they are most likely to hear something entirely different to what the customers are trying to convey. Active listening misconceptions stop people from being effective communicators and cause unnecessary interruptions and inconveniences for others.

To sum this up, active listening is extremely vital in the workplace and especially in the realm of customer service. It is essential for companies to make every effort to dispel each of the active listening misconceptions and ensure that their front-ending staff is empathetic and geniunely interested in what the customers are saying in words and actions.

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