One of the four traits of customer service masters is to be a good listener. Good listeners don’t assume they know what a customer is going to say. They’re always respectful of a customer, even when the customer is saying something the service provider has heard many times before from other customers.
Here’s an example of what I mean: My family and I recently visited one of our favorite restaurants. We’ve been there many times and we love the food and atmosphere. We also know the service is very slow, but everyone who goes there knows that, too. It’s a tiny place that serves a variety of handmade crepes. We don’t go there for the great service, we go there for the food and ambiance and expect the food to take a long time to be served. On this particular visit, it took even longer than usual. My wife had an appointment and she asked the waiter how soon our food would be out. He launched into a lengthy explanation about how they prepare everything from scratch, had only a very small kitchen, and were very busy at that moment and said her food would be out soon. He didn’t actually answer her question. I’m sure he’s heard that question many times before and probably in the form of a complaint from first-time diners at this restaurant. My wife wasn’t complaining. She just needed a bit of information in order to make a decision. His defensive response not only was off-putting, it didn’t answer her question. He wouldn’t stop talking long enough to listen to his customer. I’m sure we can all understand his perspective of having heard the same question many times before, but his canned response missed the point of my wife’s question.
When our end users ask the same question we’ve heard a million times before, when they ask how long a repair is going to take or why the network is so slow, let’s make sure we listen carefully to what they’re asking and treat them respectfully. That way, we can ensure we’re actually answering their questions. We need to be careful not to assume we know what they’re saying before they say it, we must always let them finish what they’re saying, and we need to simply answer their question. Even when we’ve heard the same question many times before, we need to treat each customer respectfully as though it’s the first time we’ve heard it. Sure, we can offer an explanation when it’s appropriate, but the most important thing we can do is listen carefully, as Stephen Covey said, with the intent to understand, not to respond.
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