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Do Your Employees Know About Active Listening? They Should!

Suzi Shopper: Thoughts on business from a consumer’s perspective

Don’t just listen to me…hear me...if your customer service people don’t understand the importance of active listening, you are missing the boat. Active listening techniques are used to prevent suicides and in hostage negotiations, so to say this is an important tool in anything that involves communication is an understatement.

Ok, I’m not saying retailers are dealing with equally serious situations. But let’s face it, we live in a stressed out world, and as a retailer, I’m sure you’ve been faced with an irate customer. This is where active listening skills can come in handy.

According to, the definition of active listening is, “The act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech. Activity listening is an important business communication skill, and it can involve making sounds that indicate attentiveness, as well as the listener giving feedback in the form of a paraphrased rendition of what has been said by the other party for their confirmation.”

I have a friend who is a licensed mental health counselor, and she tells me that this is the very first skill they’re taught in school. It’s not necessarily about having the answers, she said. First and foremost, people want to be heard. They want to know you are hearing them…really hearing them…because that means you care.

The reason active listening was invented is because oftentimes we listen but don’t hear. Active listening not only shows the speaker that the listener is receiving the message, but it is actually giving the listener the chance to process the message…to actually hear it. By using active listening skills, we let the person speaking to us know that we understood the message—so this not only gives that person confidence in us, but it also confirms the message. These are both steps to diffusing a potential customer service nightmare.

Companies also use active listening techniques in conflict resolution training. So, if you haven’t yet, get all your employees trained in active listening. It’s simple, and there are many sources on the web, from free to very low cost to more sophisticated, with teaching tools and exercises. Measure your customer service feedback before and after and if you notice a difference. I want to hear from you!