No, seriously, listen.
When I say that a conversation involves people listening to each other speak, you would say, “Duh, of course.” But how often are you in a conversation when you realize that the other person is talking at you, not with you? Or vice-versa? We’re all guilty of this. It reminds me of a scene from Fight Club, when two characters meet at a cancer support group. They joined because they’re just lonely, and not really sick;
Narrator: When people think you're dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just …
Marla Singer: … instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?
Narrator: Yeah. Yeah.
The first time I saw the movie, the relevance of the big plot twist didn’t stick with me as much as this tiny moment of truth did.
Have you ever felt this way? Because you definitely don’t want your customers to feel like they're not being heard, or that what they have to say is not valued. If a customer leaves an interaction with your company feeling like this, something very wrong just happened. You didn’t listen.
Starting the Conversation
In the contact center industry, the words “voice” and “talk” rain down on customer’s ears like a veritable hailstorm. But, they’re not sinking in because you’re talking at people, not listening to them.
In order to nurture and grow relationships with your customers and prospective leads, your communication needs to come more like a like soft rain instead. In this day and age, it is becoming more and more apparent that selling to or helping a customer is not a question of grand-standing and projecting your message, but rather listening to the problems that your customers face. Listening sounds passive, but it's actually the best way to engage your customers.
The customer of today wants to have a personal stake in everything that they invest in. This means when they have an issue with a product or service, they want to know that their demands are being heard and that something is being done about it. When they ask you for help, they want you to not only find a solution, but assure them that their poor experience is taken into account as well. They want a product or service that is not one size fits all, but that fits just right for them. The way to engage the customer of today is to listen.
Pitch a Solution, Not a Position
In sales, listening to the problems that your customers face will enable you to see how the product or service that you are selling can fit into their needs. Rather than bullying them into buying into your company, you are providing them with a solution to their problems. So, when making outbound calls to prospective leads, ask specific questions about their needs, and listen to the answers. This will clear up any situations where the customer may not have a demand for or a readiness to invest in what you are selling. You won’t waste their time or yours. Plus, when a customer feels like you are really listening to them and not just waiting for the next part of your sales pitch, they will already be more willing to develop a loyal relationship.
Remember, when you’re reaching out to a prospective lead as a contact center agent, call scripts exist as guides. They give you a way to enter a conversation, but it’s up to you to make it a real conversation and not just a dialogue.
The Value of Experience
If your contact center mostly deals with inbound calls—for instance, if you’re a customer support hotline for a service or product, or in a customer service-related industry—then you're quite used to listening to customers in order to find out what they need help with and devising a workable solution. However, it may not have occurred to you that this is not enough.
Listening to a customer is the only way to figure out how to help them and you want to give your customers the best experience possible, especially if they are having difficulty using your product or service. If a customer buys or invests in a product or service, then they have placed trust in the quality of your company’s offerings. They may feel that a product that has malfunctioned, broken, or is simply not easy to use for them, has betrayed some of the trust they have placed in your company. Finding a quick solution after listening to their issue is only the first step in reestablishing trust. You must also make an effort to listen to the way that they feel about that experience.
Working in customer service, you will probably also face the situation of a customer who is calling in without a real problem, but they simply want their voice to be heard. This is frustrating because it feels like there is no real purpose to this call. If you aren’t finding a solution for them, then what do they want from you? Sometimes they just want to be heard. Just listen to them and you can turn that phone call into a productive interaction. Use this as an opportunity to find out about their level of satisfaction as customer. The feedback they provide may be useful and that customer will leave feeling pleased that they have contributed. Assure them that their opinion is welcome and that their experience as a customer is valued.
It’s easy. Just listen and you may find that the interactions that you have with customers are more productive. The contact center industry is about starting a conversation, so talk to your customers, not at them.