I don’t travel much but last weekend I had the privilege of flying to my home state of Oregon for my niece’s wedding (with a fun stop along the way to meet up with some of the WebPunch team in Denver!). Since it was a three-legged flight, I had plenty of time to observe customer service in action. As I watched the interaction between the flight attendants and passengers as well as engage with the employees at the airport, it dawned on me that their customer service has to be top-notch, in the moment, at all times. They have to be “on” 100%.
I began to think about how often we remind our clients of the importance of responding to online reviews. A tedious task sometimes, especially when the review is negative but even when the reviews are positive it still takes time to log into your account and respond to your customer. Here’s the great thing that you have at your disposal. Time. Although we do encourage you to respond relatively quickly to your reviews, you still have a moment to pause and collect your thoughts before actually responding.
It seems that today we have a lot of noise coming our way. Ringing phones, text notifications, email pings, the list could go on and on. And that’s only the noise coming from our phones! In my house, the noise of six people and a dog is already a lot, but add in the mix of the TV, XBox, and just ordinary conversation and suddenly, our senses are at max capacity. Or at least my senses are!
In addition to regular noise, there is also something that I refer to as visual noise. Flashing screens, blinking clocks, hue lights (my kids love colorful lights!), and constant motion. Everything and everyone seem to be “on” at all times. Honestly, I’m not sure that our brains were ever equipped to handle the constantness of life in the 21st century.
In the business and customer service world, the single most important thing we can do is listen. Business owners need to listen to what their customers are telling them. The art of true listening seems to be rapidly disappearing and we may have to fight tooth and nail to make sure it sticks around.
Listening requires patience, which requires slowing down, which requires intentionally making space to be still and listen. Turning off the noise, shutting down the electronic devices, sitting down – these are not easy things to do in our culture today. Interestingly enough, quiet is not revered in today’s society. Loud and fast is what gets the applause.
Taylor Berens Crouch, doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Maryland, says that being a good listener is crucial to being a great leader. Here are six habits of great listeners:
- THEY PRACTICE BEING TRULY MINDFUL
Being present to hear what the speaker is saying is essential to being a good listener, says Crouch.
“If you’re really mindful, you’re in the moment. You’re focusing on what the other person is saying and avoiding the natural inclination and temptation to judge, predict, and evaluate.”
- THEY TAKE A PAUSE BEFORE RESPONDING
In order to avoid awkward silences and gaps in conversation, often we will formulate our response to someone while they’re still speaking. This, says Crouch, gets in the way of effective listening. Instead, take a pause after the speaker is finished to think about your response.
- THEY PARAPHRASE WHAT WAS JUST SAID
To ensure they’re interpreting the speaker’s information correctly, good listeners practice what’s called reflective listening, which means that they avoid responding right away and instead paraphrase what was just said. This gives the speaker the opportunity to say, “Yes, you’re really hearing me,” or, “No, that’s not quite right.” Reflective listening not only shows the speaker that you’re truly engaged and interested in understanding them, but avoids the opportunity for misunderstandings.
- THEY HAVE AN OPEN MIND
How many times have you gone into a meeting with someone thinking you know exactly how the conversation is going to go? Perhaps you’ve already had the conversation in your head before you’ve even given the other person a chance to speak. Great listeners go into a conversation with an authentic desire to understand, rather than preconceived notions or judgments about what the other person is going to say.
- THEY ARE COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
Listening can be challenging and uncomfortable. Sometimes you’re forced to hear things that you don’t agree with. “We have a desire to step away from that discomfort by defending ourselves or offering our viewpoint,” says Crouch, but resisting the urge to interrupt is a critical skill for a good listener to adopt.
The truth is, you can’t truly respond, either in the moment or later, if you haven’t taken the time to truly listen to what somebody has said to you. As somebody who doesn’t think quickly on her feet and tends to process information slowly and deliberately, I greatly appreciate the luxury of time when responding to someone. Email and text are my best friends.
Most business owners have to interact in real-time with clients on a regular basis, which requires good customer service skills in the moment. So embrace the bonus of extra time when it comes to responding to your reviews. Take a deep breath and settle in with a cup of coffee (or whatever your choice of beverage may be) and think about what you really want to say to your customers. If the review is negative, you will be able to sit with the feedback and decipher how you can use it to benefit your company. If the review is positive, you will be able to thank your customer and let them know how valuable their words are to you. No matter the case, people just want to be heard and will be happy to get a personal response from you.
In a world full of NOW, it’s nice to know that you can allow yourself to respond thoughtfully and at your leisure. Your clients are worth it and will appreciate your heartfelt words.