Essential Questioning and Listening Skills for Customer Service Professionals

Customer Service Training Resource
December 11, 2012 — 1,520 views  
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Essential Questioning and Listening Skills for Customer Service Professionals

For the customer service professional, the fundamentals for effective questioning and listening are: 1) A thorough knowledge of the products or services provided and the structure and operations of that company; and 2) A genuine wish to help the customer. This knowledge and attitude will be naturally conveyed and will build in the customer the confidence that the problem being presented will be solved.

Before receiving the call, all distractions should be removed if possible so that the customer can sense in the greeting the full attention of the customer service person. When the caller feels the receptivity and empathy of the service representative, a bond is established which makes the resolution of the problem possible.

Some basics of Questioning and Listening are:

• Assume that the customer has a valid complaint and maintain an open mind in listening.
• Listen actively to grasp the full scope of the problem, both relating to the product or service and the customer’s feelings.
• Ask clarifying questions to show the customer that you are interested in fully understanding the problem. Phrases such as “explain to me...” or “help me to understand...” convey attentiveness and interest.
• You can rephrase what the customer said and ask if that’s what was meant. In the rephrasing, a more neutral and non-emotional presentation of the problem can be proposed.
• When the customer is finished, restate the customer’s complaint in simple terms and ask if you understood correctly. When the complaint is accurately received, the tension in the customer will be reduced.
• Be non-intrusive, non-judgmental, sympathetic and respectful.
• If the customer attacks you personally, remain professional and do not take what is said personally. Follow the procedures learned for handling this situation. Attacks are unlikely if the relationship described above has been established.

In questioning, the representative can determine the extent to which the customer is emotionally involved in the problem. If the customer is matter of fact and simply presents the problem as external to him or herself, it can usually be quickly resolved by providing more information, or by a corrective process put in place by the representative. If the customer is emotionally involved, the problem is more complex and requires a delicate handling of the situation.

An early response to express understanding and sympathy may bring down the level of emotion. For example, “I can see how frustrating and upsetting this was to you.” Once the customer feels that the representative is a helper and not an adversary, the conversation can be focused at an objective level of what happened: first, then, and then, etc. This shift in emphasis from emotional to objective has the effect of taking the customer from the emotional centers of the brain to the executive functions, where solutions can then be explored.

When a solution is found, it is important for the customer service professional to confirm this with the customer. The call can be concluded by thanking the customer for taking the time to provide feedback to the company.


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