Strategic Listening: The importance of truly listening to your customer
By Marco Albarran Managing Director, Remarkable Hospitality, Inc. | April 15, 2012
At one point or another, we probably have been told that we are great listeners. Perhaps this depends on who one is having a conversation with. Regardless, due to respect and also, capturing the important elements of any vocal communication, are key concepts that make listening such a valuable skill set. Having analyzed plenty of guest service satisfaction scores, alongside with having discussed this topic in many forums and hospitality courses, communication, specifically listening, has been identified as one of the most critical aspects of a conversation. Whether it is via the phone, on a one on one scenario, or in a group setting, the ones that learn to truly listen dynamically and in a focused manner, score the highest points in satisfaction ratings. What we intend to explain in this article is to expand on situations/scenarios which we have identified as examples that perhaps you may want to use to enhance your existing service levels.
I will start this particular scenario, which many of you most likely go through, have gone through, or will go through. I am, however, going to add an interesting observation that is relatable to a hospitality setting. I'm not going to cover the typical types of listening, such as active listening in this article. What we will see is how to apply listening in a way that we can use effectively, given any situation, by using common sense and attention.
A six-year old (let's relate this to an employee or team) expressed interest in joining a baseball team. In order to join, children must be selected in try outs, so practice, focus and motivation is vital to prepare for this. Dad (let's related this to the general manger or a manager) is very excited, as they are originally from New York and passionate about this favorite pastime. Neither of them rarely do physical activity, yet, this seems a great attempt to commence a new stage in this relationship.
Monies are invested in gear and time. Weeks before the tryouts, dad, mom (used to play softball in college) and son dedicate one to two hours a day getting ready for the big day. The parents take turn pitching, with maybe one or two hits, and missing several pitches. Parents yell at their son after having practiced the essentials on position and swinging, as well as focusing and keeping an eye in the ball. The son nods in agreement, however, seems to wonder off and lose focus. Parents continuously yell at him, daily that he is not listening, pay attention to the ball. "Swing straight and forward; not like a golfer! You are not listening!" The child gives up and sits on the floor. Similar issues occur while practicing catch. The child whines and cries. Parents yell the magic phrase again, "you are not listening!"
A friend of the father, knowledgeable in baseball coaching, happens to walk by and offers to pitch and attempt to motivate the child in his demeanor. The child interestingly gets more energetic upon the idea, starts listening to the coach (I like to call this the third party consultant) and the child connects several balls with the swing of the bat. Similarly, he also catches many more balls thrown at him. The child is motivated. One of the parents laughs and says, "I am frustrated, he doesn't listen to me, but he listens to the coach/friend." Tryout day arrives and the child makes the team.
There is nothing worse than a disengaged person involved in any communication. They look like they are paying attention, however, they may be spaced out, and not listening to what the real message the speaker is trying to get across. At times, we may also do this as we perhaps do not care to understand what the other party is trying to explain, or justify, as we may be sold on our stance on any particular subject. However, if we do this, how are we to weigh in both sides of a situation, and make a reasonable decision, or a reasonable response? Other situations involve a speaker who is communicating too quickly, and they believe that they are doing well in expressing all immediately at one shot. However, there may be missed points.