The Fine Art of Listening in Customer Service

The Fine Art of Listening in Customer Service

September 13, 2019

Want to know the easiest way to find out what your customers need and want?

LISTEN to them. No, I mean really listen. Stop talking for a moment — even if you have some kind of talk track you use when someone calls or approaches you at an event.

One thing that happened this week that proves the necessity for “listen more, talk less.”

I was stuck in South Florida as then-predicted “apocalyptic” Hurricane Dorian was hurtling toward me at two miles per hour. The entire state of Florida was losing their minds. There wasn’t enough water, gasoline and bread to go around. I have never seen anything like it in my life. (Especially for a region of the country where four months a year they have something called HURRICANE SEASON. But that’s another topic entirely.)

Anyway, I started to try to get home the moment I got off the plane at West Palm Beach International Airport. I called the airlines, only to find out that while the company agreed to switch flights for people looking to leave (without cost!) there simply were no flights available. Frontier Airlines had decided to suspend all flights for the next week. It was Aug. 28. I was told the next flight I could get on would be Sept. 9.

I called and called and called. Essentially, each time I got an answer I didn’t like, I called back.

Finally, at 11 p.m., I got someone who told me they could help me. They confirmed, indeed, that Frontier was not going to be flying out of Florida until Sept. 9. However, he could get me on a flight from Minneapolis to Trenton (my home airport) the following morning, Aug. 30, at 10 a.m.

Woo hoo!!!! I was saved. Well, except for the issue of being STUCK IN SOUTH FLORIDA!

Now, remember, I had just explained my issue thoroughly. He looked at my booking and confirmed where I was and which airports I had reasonable access to. He even told me that he couldn’t get me out of South Florida for over a week.

However, his solution was for me to get to the other side of the country in less than 12 hours – by what? Foot? Rental car at 11 p.m. at night?

I asked him where he was at the moment and he said the Philippines. I then made him an offer: “meet me in Minneapolis for the flight tomorrow at 10 a.m. and I’ll give you a million dollars.”

He responded, “Mam, there’s no way I could get to Minneapolis by 10 a.m. tomorrow.”

Neither could I!!!!! Neither could I.

The issue here was simple. He heard my words as a customer but did not listen to my challenges and concerns. He wasn’t using his head to problem solve, he was using a script that was useless in the situation.

The end result was extreme frustration on my part and a complete and utter annoyance with Frontier Airlines. And, I’m telling this story often. It’s not good for my blood pressure and it’s certainly not good for Frontier’s reputation.

As a business owner, please make the art of listening paramount in your customer service training. As people, we can’t always get what we want, but feeling as though the person who is trying to help you understands your plight makes the bad medicine easier to take. And, when the news is positive, it helps the customer remember the interaction even more favourably.

Need help with customer relationship management or business reputation management? Contact Harmonia Media for a free consultation. We will listen and we will help. 

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