Executive Director People 1st International
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Corona and the emotional side to listening

18th May 2020
Executive Director People 1st International
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Customer service is essentially an emotional process - it's how the customer feels about the interaction that matters in the long run and customers will look back on the turbulent Corona virus period, and remember which organisations stood by their customers and did all that they could to help. 

For customer service staff, the ability to be able to master the emotional side to listening takes active listening to a new level, and helps to facilitate a deeper and more emotional connection with customers.

Here are Jane’s top tip on how the emotional side to listening in these complex times.

Listen with your heart

According to mindfulness coach and author of Coach Your Team (published by Penguin) Liz Hall, there is a growing body of research indicating that the cultivation of both mindfulness and compassion, results in not only greater productivity and performance, but also enhanced emotional intelligence, self-awareness and self-management as well as a heightened ability to be aware and to tune into others. Known as ‘mindful compassion,’ this approach makes it easier to more quickly develop a profound emotional connection with customers, including caring and listening more deeply. These capacities are very much needed in the call centre environment, as forward-thinking call centre companies such as US-based Appletree Answers have discovered.

Don’t get Triggered

In challenging times and customer-facing situations, listening deeply and staying mindful can also help to ensure that customer service staff stay calm and centred. In a deep state of listening, it’s easier for people to manage their own emotions and not get triggered. This is especially true of situations where are customer is angry or aggressive. Here, deep heart listening and mindful compassion can help with staying calm and diffusing a difficult situation or making it less toxic. By avoiding charged states, it’s also easier to stay resilient and avoid being sucked into negative energy or drama.

Neutral Listening

Whilst it might sound a contradiction to listen deeply at an emotional level whilst staying neutral, a neutral listening mode means not having to mop up customer stress and avoiding being unwittingly drawn into messy and complex scenarios. It was the psychologist Carl Rogers who coined the phrase `unconditional positive regard` or accepting and valuing an individual precisely as they are, without judgement or criticism. By ensuring you don’t allow any judgements or potentially negative or critical thoughts to enter into the frame, deep listening means that customers can be fully heard in a way that avoids any sort of judgement – even if those were only unspoken thoughts.

Be Spontaneous

Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos, is famed for a customer experience philosophy based on the belief that every contact or call with a customer represents an opportunity to make a positive emotional connection. “For us it’s about trying to build a lifelong relationship with each customer and doing it through the telephone,” he once said. He also believes that this sort of engagement can’t be scripted. “We generally try to stay away from policies, we just ask our reps to do whatever they feel is the right thing to do for the customer and the company.”

A spontaneous approach is aligned with heart-felt, deep listening as it involves, being in the moment and taking full advantage of every opportunity to make a positive emotional connection.

Spread the Love

Emotion is a two-way transfer of energy, so the quality of that energetic interaction is just as important. Research published in the Journal of Human Relations found that helping customers to solve a problem, particularly where the employee felt that a good outcome came about as a result of his/her own initiative, not only triggers positive emotions in the person concerned - these good vibes also rub off on the rest of the team.

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