Listening is one of the most valuable skills that an employee can possess. When somebody is good at listening, they are able to take feedback and engage more meaningfully with their colleagues and their customers. A community that prioritises listening over talking will inevitably grow stronger over time.
The problem with today’s listening culture
Why do so few business prioritize listening in the workplace? For one thing, the modern world of constant media bombardment has overwhelmed most people’s ears. People learn to tune out most of the noise around them as a result of commercials and telemarketers constantly trying to get their attention. As a result, society is often distracted.
Because of this constant distraction, it requires a conscious effort to move towards a mindset of active listening. The good news is that it isn’t that hard to encourage a company to listen better. Like most habits, changing this failure to listen starts with being aware of the problem and wanting to improve.
How to listen better
When two people converse with each other, good listening skills benefit them both equally. The listener (or employee) learns more information and feels more relaxed. The speaker (or client/consumer) has the comfort that comes with really being heard, even if they aren’t always agreed with.
Listening isn’t only about sound. A great way to improve your listening habit is to pay attention to the body language of the speaker. Hand movements and facial expressions often convey a large amount of extra information to provide context for the speaker’s statements.
With this comes using your own body language to communicate to your customers. If you’re crossing your arms or leaning away from your client, they will subconsciously pick up on the fact that you’re not really listening to them and would prefer to not be talking to them as these gestures are blocking and distancing tactics. Instead, lean forward, nod your head, smile, keep your body open and not crossed, and keep eye contact (but not uncomfortable eye contact). These show you’re truly interested in them and are truly listening to their concerns.
Another good trick is to never interrupt the speaker. It is amazing how often people interrupt each other in day-to-day conversation. Some people never actually wait for anybody to finish their sentence. As soon as an idea comes to mind, they begin speaking. Don’t do that. Wait for a pause of at least one full second before beginning to speak.
Practicing this will cause our client to realize you truly do care and are paying attention to them. When you interrupt your clients and customers, they don’t feel valued and feel as if you just want them out of your hair. Taking the time to listen and wait a full second before speaking allows you to truly understand your customer’s issues and questions and to be able to more fully answer and help them.
Teaching others how to listen
It’s not enough to be a good listener yourself. If you want listening to be a core principle of your business, you need to spread the message across your organization. You can do this through workshops or written pamphlets.
The most effective method is to build listening into your company’s workflow. Create a “no interruption” rule that applies to all dialogue during work hours. Ask employees to write down one or two interesting things they heard at the end of each day. Hold feedback sessions where managers listen to employee concerns and ideas.
Any time you can increase the amount of listening at your company, you improve the flow of information. When information is able to spread, the organization becomes stronger. In addition to this, improving listening within your organization will help break your employees’ habits of not listening. These habits of listening will then trickle into the other aspects of their lives, including dealing with their clients and customers at work.
Listen to customers and clients too
You should utilize these listening skills in your interactions with customers too. This is a simple way to get to know them better, allowing you to better cater to their needs. It also helps you to build rapport and great relationships with your customers, and both of these things will help retain your customers.
Look at customer reviews and see what the common compliments and complaints are. Google may help you find niche review sites to check out. Use your brand name followed by the word “reviews” as a way to identify hidden sources of customer information outside of Google and Yelp!. Make sure you then respond in an appropriate and professional way to their comments to improve opinion of your company.
It’s hard to keep listening when you are presented with information you do not like. Stay open-minded, even to negative reviews, if you want to grow as a company. Listening to their negative reviews helps you know how to improve your organization and how to respond properly to their complaints. Your business will grow as customers continue to have more pleasing interactions with your business.
Prioritize listening for a more effective organization
The fastest way to grow as a person, and as a company, is to listen. Use the tools and tactics laid out in this post to make this skill part of the core of your business. If your entire team develops a strong sense for listening, you’ll avoid unnecessary conflict, unlock valuable new ideas, and improve customer and client retention.
Robert Cordray is a former business consultant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience and a wide variety of knowledge in multiple areas of the industry. He specializes in marketing and customer service and has helped a plethora of companies increase their margins.