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Dennis L. Rosen, Ph.D.

The WinFluence® Expert on Customer Service Excellence and Sales Improvement

Dr. Dennis Rosen provides keynotes and training on customer service and sales improvement.

The WinFluence® Blog On Customer Service Excellence & Sales Improvement

Don't Just Listen to Your Customers -- Understand Them

Often I see the advice that we should listen more to our customers in order to provide a great customer experience. This seems like good advice. After all, there is a natural tendency to want to talk instead of listening – to jump in rather than letting the customer explain. The problem I have with the advice to “listen to the customer” is it simply states an action to take. And that action alone may not accomplish the result that we must have to provide a great customer experience and proper customer service. So I suggest you do not tell your team to listen to their customers. Rather, tell them to understand their customers. After all, they can listen without understanding, but they can't understand without listening. I Still Can’t Understand You Unfortunately, even if our goal is to understand, it may not be easy. When I was a kid, my brother and sister started speaking to each other in pig-Latin. You may have done the same when you were a kid by removing the first letter or two of a word and adding it to “ay” at the end. Thus “Can you speak pig-Latin?” becomes, An-cay ou-yay eak-spay ig-pay atin-lay? Even though I was listening to what my siblings said, I didn’t understand them. And trying harder to understand them didn't help. Of course, I found this very frustrating. However, after yelling and pouting and bribing my brother with candy, he gave me the code. And after a little practice, I was finally able to go beyond just listening to what he and my sister were saying. I was able to understand them. Learn to Speak Their Language The same problem can apply for your team and their customer interactions. Moving them from the goal of listening to the goal of understanding their customers is often not enough. Similar to my childhood example, to truly understand their customers, you must instruct your team in the proper code, because customers don’t necessarily speak in our language. A complaining customer, for example, can be upset and may use words and a tone that can be misinterpreted by team members. Or customers may complain about something that seems trivial to us because we aren’t aware of how the issue has affected their lives, taken up their time, etc. Customers can provide top-of-mind responses that don’t get to their true feelings and needs and, thus, can lead team members to make incorrect assumptions. And team members may respond using jargon that is not understood by their customers. It Takes Training Thus, explaining the importance of understanding is not enough. You must also train your team members to understand by giving them the code to:

  • Customer needs - both basic human needs that motivate your customers and their expressed needs related to your specific products and services.

  • Proper questioning to get to customers’ true needs so your team can address concerns or issues and properly serve their customers.

  • How customers think, how they form attitudes and perceptions, and the impact that small actions can have on these.

Only then can your team provide the kind of customer service and sales advice that will properly influence your customers and ake-may em-thay evoted-day oh-tay or-yah iness-bay.

And may all your customers be devoted customers! -------------------------------------------------------- Dr. Dennis Rosen is the WinFluence® expert on customer service and sales improvement for retailers, service providers and sales professionals. More information is available at

© 2014 - 16 by Dennis L. Rosen.

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