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The most important word when it comes to dealing with customers is understanding. The better you understand your customers, the easier it is to serve them, and the more loyal they'll be to you and your company. In the long run, this will have a positive effect on how valuable you are. So what does understanding mean? Think for a moment about the person you feel understands you best, what is it makes them such an understanding person? There are many ways to look at it, but in my experience those who best understand others, share three characteristics: listening, responding, and harmonizing.
Let's talk about listening for a moment. An understanding person takes the time to get to know you, they listen actively. An active listener is someone who doesn't necessarily sit back and let you do all the talking, but instead occasionally asks you questions to not only get the details, but also the emotions that you're experiencing. This means that a good listener is empathetic. An empathetic listener makes an effort to understand the emotions of the other person, not just the events they experienced. An empathetic listener may not know what you're going through, but wants to understand and will ask questions to fully appreciate where you're coming from.
With your customers, how well do you listen actively and empathetically? Are you engaged in paying attention to them when they're talking, or are you multitasking, looking at other things and giving a halfhearted effort? As you think of ways you can improve your listening skills, write down a note about one thing you might start doing differently when communicating with your customers. The next important element of understanding is responding. Being responsive to your customer's needs, means responding quickly and courteously to their requests.
Perhaps you've had the experience of walking into a business where you're greeted warmly the moment you step through the door. That quickness and courtesy makes you feel welcome and engaged. Being responsive means that you're aware of the customer, and that after you listen to them, you quickly take action on their request. The third element of understanding your customer is harmonizing. Think about harmony in music, what makes for great harmony? It's not that the notes are exactly the same, in fact, the notes are different, but they're moving together in a way that complements each other.
Harmonizing with your customer means that you are adaptive. It doesn't mean you change your personality, but that you understand their personality and their needs, and adapt, so that you can best work together. I once helped a company who had many elderly customers. Their college-aged employees learned how to change their pace of speech, reduce the use of slang, and use different technology tools in order to better serve an older generation. That's harmonizing.
When working with your customers stay alert for opportunities to be an active empathetic listener, to respond quickly and courteously, and to harmonize your actions and words to their needs. When you do this, you'll have a greater understanding of your customer, you'll likely enjoy your job more and ultimately increase your value in the eyes of your company.
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