During my last trip to Monterrey I had the chance to confirm
first-hand the big difference between hearing and listening to
customers, and the power of the latter to create positive
Due to schedule reasons, I had to flight out and back in
different airlines, which we shall call “Listening Airlines” and
I took off early in the morning and soon after a flight
attendant from “Listening Airlines” approached me offering
something to drink.
I asked for black coffee with no sugar, as usual. About 30
minutes later, he came over again: “would you like more coffee?”
The fact that he had remembered my beverage amazed me,
especially because he was serving at least other 40 passengers.
I accepted and then he replied: “black, no sugar, right?” What a
surprise! I couldn’t believe he could remember the very details
of my preference.
My experience was truly pleasant and far different from what one
is used to when travelling by plane. The ability of this
employee contributed to improve the image I had of this airline
and set it apart from the rest, something that became apparent
to me on my flight back in “Hearing Airlines” that same
During the trip, a flight attendant came to my seat and asked if
I wanted something to drink. “An apple soda with no ice,
please”, I replied stressing on the words “with no”. Immediately
after, the employee handed me a glass with my apple beverage
with ice!!! It was beyond belief, but this person had forgotten
my request in a split second …evidently, she hadn’t listened to
me. Upset about the situation, I chose to remain silent.
Two clear points can be made out of this story:
1. When it comes to service, people make the difference
2. Hearing is not the same as listening; in other words,
receiving sounds is not the same as paying attention to them.
In the case of “Listening Airlines”, the flight attendant showed
a genuine interest in offering an excellent service to make me
feel special. He listened, remembered my words and acted using
that knowledge in my favor. On the other hand, the employee from
“Hearing Airlines” did just the bare minimum to comply with her
job, behaving mechanically and triggering negative feelings in
me by showing she wasn’t interested in serving me.
Life can be ironic, because while “Listening Airlines” promotes
rates or new destinations in its advertising, the focus of
“Hearing Airlines” communication is no more and no less than
In the world of service, listening is far more important than
talking. Listening carefully yields both rational-tangible and
From a rational–tangible perspective, listening is the key to
get to know customers better, understand their needs and get to
the core of their problems. Listening helps us provide a better
service by allowing us to focus on effective actions that
generate the results the customer expects.
But emotional-intangible benefits are perhaps more important.
Listening shows respect and humbleness. Listening is a way of
telling the customer we care about him. Listening produces
empathy and a feeling of acknowledgment …Listening delights
A study conducted in the United States and published in the book
“Customer Loyalty: How to Earn It, How to Keep It” (Jill
Griffin, Jossey-Bass, 2002) reported that 87% of customers feel
that the companies they have contact with don’t listen to them
It seems hard to believe, but something as simple as listening
is very hard to find in organizations nowadays. Most employees
behave like the flight attendant from “Hearing Airlines”, acting
like robots and forgetting about their main responsibility:
efficiently serving customers requirements and achieving total
For this reason, here we provide some simple tips that will
significantly improve your ability to listen to your internal
and external customers.
1. Acknowledge the enormous power and benefits that stem from
carefully listening to others.
2. When the customer talks, stop doing whatever you are doing.
3. Stay 100% focused on the customer. Do not allow yourself to
4. If you face the customer in person, establish frequent
eye-contact, but without making him feel uncomfortable.
5. If you deal with the customer over the phone, close your eyes
or focus them on a fixed spot.
6. While the customer is talking, write down key words in a
sheet of paper. This will help you retain the main ideas.
7. Never interrupt a customer! Be cautious and let him finish
8. Keep your emotions in check. Sometimes we don’t like what we
are told, but if you get carried away, your focus will shift
from what’s most important: the customer’s feelings.
9. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have listened to
everything the customer had to say.
10. Read the customer’s body language and tone of voice.
Sometimes they speak louder than words.
11. If something is not well understood, ask the customer to
12. Rephrase and double check with the customer.
Try to implement as many of these tips as possible in your
everyday life, as they will help you provide a better service,
make your communication with others more effective, and afford a
better understanding of what customers expect from your, making
them feel more satisfied and content.
About the Author
Fernando Krasovitzky is the Managing Director of Leventer
Group. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org