Two important topics often covered in this blog are diversity and how things “sound,” in particular how to pronounce names. While we talk a lot about how to be diverse and how to get yourself heard in a business setting, it’s important to stop and consider the question – are you actively listening to what others have to say? Active listening is an age-old concept that is still extremely relevant in the business world.
In a business setting in particular, it is so important that colleagues and customers feel as though you are hearing what they have to say. Have you ever been to a store or called a customer service line and felt as though the salesperson/customer service agent wasn’t listening to what you had to say? I think that for me personally, that is one of the most frustrating feelings in the world! To run a successful business of any kind, your customers must know that you are listening.
Here are some tips on active listening:
- If your exchange is conducted in person, make sure that your body language indicates that you are listening. Maintain eye contact, and face the person who is speaking. Don’t appear closed off – no crossing your arms!
- If your exchange is conducted online, as many will be for new businesses, make sure that the customer knows what it is that you are addressing. For example, if you are responding to a complaint that has come through via social media, be sure to reiterate what the customer’s issue is before diving in with a solution. Also, avoid being defensive!
- Show that you are paying attention by engaging the person you are speaking with further on the topic. You can ask questions that are directly related to the conversation as well, encouraging the customer or client to expand on the topic. This will show them that you are genuinely interested in what they are talking about.
- Before you “relate” to the speaker by sharing a similar personal story or situation, make sure that the conversation calls for it. Often, people just want to be heard. Sometimes sharing a related story can almost seem as though you are trying to one-up the speaker. Unless you can specifically tell that they are looking for solutions from someone who has faced a similar issue, it’s often better to just listen.
- Try your best to have an open mind. Many of us are set in our ways and don’t want to consider other opinions. However, in a business setting, this can be detrimental. This is especially true with global business communication. Not considering other options or solutions to a problem can cause you to lose customers. If you genuinely think that your way is best, be clear and concise in your explanation as to why.
In a business setting, listening to your customer, client, or employee is so very important. If customers don’t feel like they are being heard, they are less likely to continue to frequent your company. Practice your active listening techniques on everyone you meet, and you may be pleasantly surprised with how people react to you.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com has the most up-to-date information on every Chamber of Commerce.