Strong customer relationships are key to business success. If you can’t connect with clients, you risk wasting resources, demotivating your team, and putting revenue in jeopardy. Effective listening skills can help drive customer engagement and satisfaction. This article explores how to apply active listening to improve client relationships.
Applying active listening in the workplace can reduce conflict, improve retention, increase productivity, promote team communication, and more. Yet active listening isn’t intuitive. It requires intentional effort to focus on what the speaker is saying and understand what they feel is important.
Customer Experience & Active Listening
Surely by now you’ve seen the stats telling you that customer churn is costly. Or that it’s more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain the existing ones. Customers and clients today know they have power. They have high expectations, and, if those are not met, they will move on to a new product or service provider.
Did you know? In general, B2C companies experience more churn than B2B companies, averaging 7.05% versus 5%.
Active listening can help turn things around. Instead of simply hearing what customers are saying, you’ll be actively listening to connect with your current or prospective clients.
Helping your people to practice active listening in their interactions with customers and clients can have positive benefits:
- Marketers can better personalize communications understanding problems customers are trying to solve
- Sales teams can highlight the benefits of products and services specific to that client’s needs and find upsell and cross-sell opportunities
- Customer service representatives can identify what steps to take to remedy the problem or address issues
- Development teams will uncover customer needs and better design new products or services to suit the clients’ objectives
Selling to a customer is no longer enough. To retain a competitive advantage, your business needs to prioritize customer satisfaction, personalize customer experience, and delight external audiences. Each of these is more attainable with active listening in your toolbox.
How to Apply Active Listening
This series has already covered how to develop active listening skills. Now let’s consider some of the challenges in applying active listening with your external audiences.
Metric pressure is a potential pitfall. Rushing conversations is not conducive to active listening. A customer service agent who is being evaluated on their ability to quickly wrap up an interaction and get on that next call may not feel they have the time to listen intently and ask probing questions.
A salesperson with a script in mind to convert that buyer is more likely to be anticipating what they might say next. They might interrupt to tout the value of this feature or explain how this service solves the client’s needs. But active listeners are able to patiently hear what the speaker is saying and focus on gathering information from the customer.
The marketer who listens only to the customers’ words is more likely to hear what they want. They may have preconceptions about their target audiences. Ignoring the valuable information gained from paying attention also to tone, inflection, and body language, they miss out on learning how the customers truly feel.
It is also tough to be an active listener when the customer is angry or upset. The customer might be rude, use abusive or offensive language, or have difficulty controlling their emotions. Remaining neutral and observant in that situation is challenging. Still, applying active listening can help to defuse the situation sooner:
- Taking notes helps demonstrate that the agent values the importance of the customer’s information
- Paraphrasing and summarizing the customers’ concerns can help demonstrate comprehension and allow for them to clarify
- Asking open-ended questions helps the agent see things from the customer’s perspective
Active Listening to Improve Client Interactions
Asking questions, demonstrating that you are following what the speaker is saying, and resisting interrupting can help to build trust. It’s all part of active listening, which can make a real difference in your interactions with clients and customers.
Find out more about how your customers are experiencing your brand using Sogolytics’s customer experience platform. Our CX software is designed to help you build trust and customer loyalty, creating passionate company advocates. You can see what our customers say (and you don’t even need to use your active listening skills).