Good listening skills are crucial for handling difficult clients

Sep 30, 2010 | Client service

Am presenting a talk next week on how to deal with difficult clients. One of the points I’ll address and which I haven’t previously written about on this blog is the importance of demonstrating good listening skills.  Here’s just a few of the ways you can do this, especially when a client (or indeed anyone else) is being difficult:

  • Stop talking – you cannot listen if you are talking.
  • Put the client at ease – help the speaker to feel they are free to talk.
  • Show the client you want to listen – sound interested.
  • Remove distractions – don’t doodle, tap or shuffle papers.  Can you reduce noise?
  • Empathise with the client – try to put yourself in the client’s place so that you can see their point of view.  First try to understand then try to be understood (Thank you Dr Stephen Covey!).
  • Be patient – allow plenty of time.  Do not interrupt.
  • Control emotions and temper – an angry person gets the wrong meaning from words.  Avoid jumping to the wrong conclusions.
  • Go easy on argument and criticism – otherwise you will put the client on the defensive.  They may ‘clam up’ or get angry.  Do not argue: even if you win, you lose.
  • Ask questions – this encourages the client and shows you are listening.  It helps to develop points further.
  • Concentrate on what the client is saying – follow the main ideas; sometimes we hear only the examples, stories and statistics.  Don’t allow your reactions to distract you from the key concepts.

What else would you add?

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