Active listening is a critical skill every call center agent needs to hone. By mastering this skill, an agent is highly likely to deliver a positive experience in each customer interaction.
It bears mentioning, however, that active listening goes beyond just hearing and understanding the words coming out of the caller’s mouth.
It’s a dynamic process that requires the agent’s full engagement.
Active listening can be a difficult skill to master, but far from impossible. Here are tips to help call center agents maintain active listening while on the job.
1. Be at the moment
A call center agent needs to give the customer her undivided attention the moment she finishes her standard welcome spiel.
In short, she has to be fully at the moment, not allowing distractions to draw her attention away from what the customer is saying.
Granted, customers go into tangent at times, and might even head towards boring territory.
That, however, is no excuse for agents to get sidetracked. The moment their thoughts start to wander, the agent has to force herself to refocus.
Knowing how to put yourself in the customer’s shoes comes with the territory when you’re a call center agent. Additionally, empathy is a skill that can help agents focus better on what customers are saying.
This is why it’s essential that agents are trained and often reminded to always understand where the caller is coming from, even when that caller is unreasonable.
Listening is always easier when there’s a genuine desire to help. The same rule applies to conversations between customer and call center agent.
3. Don’t jump to conclusions
Call center agents often handle similar issues on a day to day basis, and doing so may make the job feel repetitive to them.
Because of this tendency, agents may fall into the trap of jumping to conclusions when a customer talks about an issue they’ve heard many times before.
This is a critical error customer service reps need to avoid at all costs.
When listening and talking to customers, agents need to keep an open mind. This ensures that they’re not missing out on critical information and subtle cues that can help them arrive at the best solution.
4. Ask for clarifications when needed
Even the most skilled listener can get confused by what a speaker is saying especially when it comprises many complex or seemingly unrelated ideas.
This is why agents have to be reminded not to shy away from asking for clarifications when something is confusing or unclear.
More often than not, callers will take it as a cue that the rep is listening and genuinely interested in helping out.
That said, agents have to wait for the caller to make a pause before asking for clarifications. Reps can say something along the lines of, “Back up a second, but could you clarify that for me, please?”
5. Master paraphrasing
Paraphrasing is the process of restating what the speaker has said, but in different words and, whenever necessary, in a slightly different context.
It’s an important skill to have because it shows the caller that the agent is paying close attention. It also assures the customer that the agent can fully understand his issue.
Ultimately, paraphrasing, when done well, makes customers feel that their issue is being addressed with a sense of urgency.
In a world becoming even more beset with distractions, it’s starting to feel like active listening is becoming a lost art. Let this not be the case in your call center.
When push comes to shove, active listening is what makes it possible for us humans to make meaningful connections with each other. It goes without saying that the same rule applies to providers and customers.