Active listening is a form of interaction that consists of paying attention to what another says, in the words they use, as well as the non-verbal signals they use, in order to understand the complete message that is being communicated and give a response. adequate.
Active listening is a stage of customer service , it requires a conscious effort to hear and understand the total message that is being sent, to read between the lines and to know what is really being said.
Active listening can be a powerful tool in both internal and external organizational communication , as it allows a greater understanding of what customers want while showing them that they are being listened to.
Active listening characteristics
These are some characteristics that distinguish a person who practices active listening:
- Mindfulness : Active listening involves paying full attention and concentrating on what the other person is saying, without being distracted by outside thoughts or activities.
- Absence of judgment : Active listening requires suspending personal judgments and prejudices. It is important to avoid criticizing or prematurely evaluating what is being heard.
- Receptive Nonverbal Communication : In addition to hearing the words, active listening involves paying attention to the speaker’s nonverbal communication. This includes body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other gestures.
- Paraphrasing and confirmation : Active listening involves repeating or paraphrasing the speaker’s message to make sure you have understood it correctly. This allows for mutual verification and shows the speaker that you are really listening and understanding her message.
- Open-ended questions: Asking open-ended questions allows the speaker to go deeper into their thinking. They help to obtain more information and clarity about the message that is being transmitted.
- Empathy and understanding : There must be empathy and understanding towards the speaker. It’s about putting yourself in her place, recognizing and validating her emotions and experiences.
- Appropriate responses : Active listening involves responding appropriately and relevantly to the speaker. It may be offering advice, providing constructive feedback, or simply providing words of support and encouragement.
These essential features work together to foster effective communication, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and enhance mutual understanding in any dialogue situation.
5 benefits of active listening
Putting active listening into practice can bring multiple benefits to knowing how to treat a client and improve the results of a business, such as:
1. Build trust and improve customer relationships
Earning the trust of our customers is one of the main assets that active listening can help you establish in your business.
By building trust, others will feel comfortable sharing information about what they want and need, which can be helpful when asking for opinions or trying to come to an agreement.
Also, this is especially necessary when you are communicating with new or existing customers and suppliers, as it can help open up more opportunities, maximize the potential of your working relationships, and gain valuable feedback. Therefore, it is a great strategy to improve the relationship with customers .
2. Prevent important information from being lost
The fact that active listening focuses on hearing the entire message means that you engage at a higher level with the speaker, allowing you to absorb more of the specific details of the interaction.
For example, if you are receiving instructions or training, you will be able to remember the details more easily. Or, as a leader, you may have to train other people and deliver messages to them, so it’s important to remember the details because others will act on your words.
One of the most common customer service mistakes is omitting part of the original message, causing the recipients of your message to also hear only parts of it. This gives rise to misunderstandings and affects labor productivity , the quality of task execution, and the quality of the products themselves.
3. Resolve disagreements
Active listening can also help resolve disagreements and settle arguments. Listening and repeating what a questioner is saying not only helps build a counterargument, but can also show the speaker holes in their own logic. This can encourage them to soften their stance and be more open to compromise.
In negotiations, active listening allows you to analyze exactly what the other party is saying in order to know how to get the best deal.
When neither party is really listening, these discussions can become a formula where the same questions are asked over and over again. However, active listening and open-ended questions can move the discussion forward.
4. It allows to identify or anticipate problems
Active listening involves seeking clarification to ensure that the interlocutor’s message has been correctly understood. This way, you can gauge if there is a problem or if what you are being told is a sign that a problem could arise, and devise a strategy to address it.
It is important that you allow yourself to develop a full sense of the problem and assess all the different aspects, based on the details you hear.
This can help you uncover a potentially underlying issue and tackle the issue at its root, rather than just curing the symptoms and seeing the problem resurface later.
5. Active listening helps you acquire more knowledge
Leaders should always embrace learning, and active listening is a powerful skill that supports learning so you can move your organization forward.
Concentrating more intensely allows you to assimilate the information and better understand the different topics, and then remember more details of what you have learned.
Active listening is exceptionally helpful when planning a strategy or organizational change . This could mean applying what you’ve learned to steer your organization in a new direction or pursuing innovation.
By catching up on industry trends, you’ll be able to make the most of discoveries.
A greater focus will help you understand the bigger picture and, as a result, analyze more thoroughly how developments could affect your organization and how you could capitalize on them.
How to put active listening into practice?
If you want to put active listening into practice to improve your customer experience , we recommend following these tips:
1. Minimize distractions
It is very easy to get distracted. Especially when our work environments have undergone such great changes in the last year.
Therefore, to practice active listening you must make sure that your environment is as free of distractions as possible.
This doesn’t mean locking yourself in a dull, quiet room, but rather doing things like removing clutter, creating a quiet space to work in, and minimizing laptop clutter by having fewer windows and tabs open.
2. Maintain eye contact
Eye contact is an important part of face-to-face conversation. However, excessive eye contact can be intimidating, so it must be adapted to the situation in which we find ourselves.
Try to break eye contact every five seconds or so, or to show you’re listening intently, look into one eye for five seconds, then the other for five seconds, then move to the mouth.
When you look away, it’s better to look to the side or up than down, as it may seem like you want to close the conversation.
3. Do not interrupt
Being interrupted is frustrating for the other person, as it gives the impression that you think you are more important or that you don’t have time to listen to what the other person has to say.
If you are a natural fast thinker or speaker, force yourself to slow down so the other person can express themselves.
Remember that a pause or a few seconds of silence does not mean that you have to intervene. If you let the other person speak, it will be easier for you to understand their message.
4. Verbalize understanding
Verbally or actively respond to show that you are following and understanding your customer‘s train of thought.
Use phrases like “I understand” or “I see,” or even soft interjections like “Uh-huh” or “Mhm.” Or nod. This helps the customer know that you are engaged in the conversation, without interrupting.
5. Clarify doubts
Repeat and paraphrase what customers have said, providing them with a summary of your understanding of the events.
This shows customers that you are actively listening and understanding their problem, as well as giving them the opportunity to correct any miscommunication.
Paraphrase your client’s key statements to make sure you haven’t misunderstood their point of view.
6. Use questioning techniques
In essence, you should use a variety of question types and techniques to better understand your customers. Using a mix of open, closed, probing, and clarifying questions can help you get the best information from your client so you both reach the optimal outcome.
7. Consider the timing of the response
Even if you have found the perfect solution, you still have to be careful how you present it to clients. Saying the right thing at the wrong time is a perfect way to derail a customer service case.
In order for the customer support team to be timely with their solutions, they have to pay attention to the person as well as the problem.
Example of active listening
Here is a practical example of how to practice active listening within an organization:
Let’s imagine that you are a team leader and you want to foster an environment of active listening among your employees. You can run a team meeting using the following strategies:
- Establish a conducive environment : Create an environment where all team members feel comfortable to express their ideas and opinions. Encourage everyone to participate and make sure they feel valued and respected.
- Establish listening rules : Before starting the meeting, establish ground rules for active listening. You can set rules like “avoid interruptions,” “listen without judgment,” and “wait for each person to finish before responding.”
- Practice reflective listening: During the meeting, show your commitment to active listening by using reflective listening techniques. Briefly repeat or paraphrase the key ideas that team members are sharing to make sure you understand them correctly.
- Encourage equal participation : Make sure all team members have a chance to express themselves. Encourage those who are more introverted or shy to speak up and prevent dominant people from dominating the conversation. You can ask specific questions of different team members to get a variety of perspectives.
- Avoid distractions : During the meeting, avoid distractions like checking your phone or answering emails. Maintain eye contact with the person who is speaking and display open and receptive body language.
- Take nothing for granted : Avoid assuming that you fully understand what is being discussed. If something isn’t clear, ask additional questions to get more clarity and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Take Notes : Take notes during the meeting to demonstrate your commitment to active listening and remembering the key points being discussed. This can also help you keep track of topics and actions that come up during the meeting.
- Respond constructively : After listening to the ideas and opinions of team members, respond constructively and empathetically. Recognize and value the contributions of each person and look for solutions or agreements that meet the needs of all.
By practicing active listening within the organization, you can foster an environment of collaboration, understanding, and mutual respect, which in turn can improve team communication and decision-making.
Put active listening into practice and improve your customer experience!
As you can see, practicing active listening is a winning strategy to improve your customers’ experience, so we invite you not to waste more time training your teams so that they can practice it and start enjoying its benefits.