Have you ever called your internet service provider, cable provider, or phone carrier to report a technical problem, only to hang up frustrated, feeling as though the rep had no interest in solving your problem?

Maybe they interrupted you or gave you an answer that didn’t solve your problem. I think we can all agree that poor customer service is a universal experience, but how do we learn from this, to ensure our customers don’t fall victim to the same failures?

By practicing deep listening.

What is deep listening?

Deep listening, means listening to learn. It means focusing solely on the customer with a willingness to receive information, whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant, without judgment.

When we listen on a standard level we often compare the information we receive to the information we already know. This means we tend to judge based on our personal experiences, rarely taking into consideration the point of view of the person we’re conversing with. That’s not to say we don’t care, just that we’re not practicing empathy or deep listening when holding conversations, especially if we’re not personally invested.

The following scenario is a good example of critical thinking getting in the way of listening:

A customer lodges a complaint to a rep about their software constantly refreshing. If the rep’s using critical thinking, their first response would be something like: “well the software is supposed to auto-refresh”, completely missing the fact that the customer can’t navigate the software at all due to the issue.

It’s easy to disregard a complaint because you think it’s silly, which occasionally it might be, but listen to the full, uninterrupted story before you make a snap judgment to avoid unhappy customers and unresolved cases.

So now we know what deep listening is, how do we put it into practice?

How to practice deep listening

Sometimes what seems like the most obvious case or customer complaint can turn out to be something completely different when you actually listen to their problem. When you listen properly, you’re not only solving customer complaints, you could also unearth some truly valuable feedback about your product or service by - you guessed it - just talking to your customers.

But anyway, enough explaining, let’s look at some actionable steps you can take.

1. Focus

It sounds kind of obvious, doesn’t it? But we’re all guilty of not giving someone 100% of our attention when we’re busy. For example, you might think you’re focusing intently by taking notes during a call but this can be a really easy way to miss important details.
When a customer is talking, put down your pen and step away from the keyboard.
Don’t do anything except listen.

2. Don’t make excuses

Customers can get a little heated when a product isn’t performing as they expect it to and as the person on the receiving end of this frustration, it’s easy to slip into defense mode.

Trying to find legitimate excuses for why something isn’t performing is just going to pour fuel on the fire. Customers don’t care why it happened, they just want to know how you’re going to fix it. Remember you’re not advocating for your company on these calls, your loyalty is with the customer and your job is to help them the best way you possibly can.

3. Don’t assume

Oscar Wilde famously said: “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me”, never is that more relevant than when you’re practicing deep listening with your customers. Listen intently and acknowledge what your customer is saying, even if you disagree. Go in with an open mind and the outcome may surprise you. Maybe the customer has a solution of their own you could implement, or perhaps you’ll come up with a new innovative, creative solution once you’ve deviated from the usual processes.

4. Practice empathy

Empathy is the key to many things in life, including customer success. . When we respond to people’s emotions the way that we would want them to respond to ours, generally we respond in a kinder, more gentle manner. Practicing empathy doesn’t mean being a doormat, it’s about having the ability to truly understand your customer’s pain points and look at the situation through their eyes, with patience.

Deep listening has many benefits, but when it comes to customer success the main one is the ability to offer better, more personalized solutions to your customers’ problems, resulting in a better customer experience all-round.