Active Listening

Active Listening is defined as listening and responding to another person to comprehend the meaning of words spoken in a conversation or speech.

The term Active Listening was first coined in 1957 in a paper titled Communicating in Business Today.

The Author’s found that “people who have been listened to in this new and special way become more emotionally mature, more open to their experiences, less defensive, more democratic, and less authoritarian”.

Even biology gives us subtle reminders we should listen more and talk less.

A term my mother always used to say was “There’s a reason we were given one mouth and two ears!”.

More recent research also reinforces we need to pay more attention when listening suggesting that humans only remember between 17 per cent and 25 per cent of the things they listen to.

So it’s pretty clear we all need to lift our game.

Normal Active Listening, amongst other things, requires visual tactics like nodding your head or the occasional smile or other facial gesture.

Of course, in a call centre environment, those visual components are, well, pretty useless.

And even in a visual setting, research has found that words only convey about 7% of what you’re trying to say.

The tone of your voice and your facial expressions account for the other 93%.

So given facial expressions don’t help us in a call centre, we need more emphasis on tone along with these other tips below.

And remember, like all skills, you need to practice Active Listening on a regular basis to improve.

6  tips to improve your Active Listening skills in a call centre

1. Demonstrate that you’re listening

In a physical sense that would involve nodding your head, smiling, using facial expressions etc as we’ve mentioned.

In a call centre environment where you can’t be seen, you need to employ a different technique.

Using verbal cues like yes, aha, mmm, yep understood will help convey to the customer you are listening.

2. Provide feedback

One of the most powerful techniques you can use for Active Listening is Paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing is the process of restating what the speaker has said, but using different words and, if necessary, in a slightly different context.

This is a sure-fire way of providing the customer with the confidence you have been paying attention and understand the situation.

Also don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Taking an active interest in what the customer is saying by asking questions reinforces that you are invested in understanding their point of view.

3. Pay Attention

It’s easy to get distracted working in a call centre.

From the numerous apps on your desktop, your colleagues or just watching the world go by outside (if you have windows) its not hard to sometimes tune out a little.

As a contact centre agent though you need to remain focused on each and every customer.

Using dual headsets where both ears are covered can reduce noise distractions.

4. Acknowledge emotions

If you can hear that a customer is upset, adjust your approach to help the customer.

When the customer sounds frustrated or angry, use empathy (see below) and reassure them you are here to help.

If they’re happy, match them with their tone and get the positive vibes flowing.

5. Don’t jump to conclusions

When you take similar types of calls all day it can be easy to jump to conclusions as soon as a customer opens their mouth.

But it’s important you keep an open mind and make sure you don’t miss out on critical information.

6. Use Empathy

By using genuine empathy you are demonstrating to the customer that you understand, and care for their situation.

This reinforces that you have been listening intently to their concerns.

Next steps

We’ve got lots of great tips for improving performance in our Training and upskilling category including these related articles:

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