Providing great service through communication

Phoenix, AZ, Jan. 23, 2006 — All utility company customer service employees should be good listeners but that isn’t always the case. It is absolutely critical that they make the most of the key tools of listening.

“Customer service representatives are extremely busy people and that often gets in the way of their ability to listen closely to customers,” says David Saxby, president of Phoenix-based Measure-X, a company that specializes in helping utilities improve their customer service and sales. “But they simply must take the time to listen. There are no excuses.”

Saxby offers the following overview of the key elements of good listening:

Let your mouth do the listening with reflective listening.

Reflective listening summarizes what a person has just said and asks for a response, Saxby says. “For example, if you have an upset customer and you can mirror his emotion back to him in the form of questions, you will help relieve his frustration and negative emotion and the conversation can then become more productive,” Saxby explains. “Try something like this: ‘If I’m hearing you right, you have tried budget billing and you don’t think it is helping you enough. Is that correct?'”

Reflecting back to your customer what you heard or understood and then asking for their confirmation of such validates their emotion, helps clarify the problem and provides the groundwork for moving forward, Saxby notes.

Make sure customers don’t have to repeat themselves.

When people think they have not been heard, they tend to repeat the same thing again and again or communicate with aggression or frustration, Saxby says.

“Listening to customers and communicating with them ensures that their point is recognized,” Saxby says. “Both listening and communicating must happen. This eliminates the repetition, saves time and allows for productive outcomes.”

The dos and don’ts of listening.

Saxby recommends CSRs practice the following during face-to-face contact with customers:

*Do make eye contact while you listen.
*Do lean forward and show interest.
*Do mirror the other person’s body language.

Saxby suggests CSRs avoid the following, whether the customer contact is in person or over the telephone.

*Don’t interrupt.
*Don’t finish customers’ sentences for them.
*Don’t multitask while listening.

“Those who master the art of communication are not all that common,” Saxby says. “Customer service representatives who become good communicators will keep their utility’s customers happy. Listening is a key element of stellar communication.”

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