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Ten tips to improve listening skills on the telephone

Need to improve your listening skills within the call centre? Christine Knott of Beyond the Box provides us with her top tips.

Stay focused
Prevent yourself from being distracted by colleagues or external noises and concentrate on what your caller is saying.

Detect emotions
Listen to the emotion in your caller’s voice. Does it match or endorse the words they are using?

Ask questions
Ask questions to gain more information on points you need to clarify.

Don’t interrupt
You listen more effectively when you’re not talking, so refrain from interrupting your caller. Let them finish what they are saying, interruptions may break their train of thought.

Don’t pre-empt
Avoid pre-empting what your caller is going to say, chances are you will be wrong and miss some of the content of their conversation.

Recap key facts
Summarise and reflect back to check you have heard the key facts and content of the caller’s conversation correctly. It also lets the caller know you have understood them. Statements such as “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back and summarise.

Pen and paper at the ready
Have a pen and paper to hand and get into the habit of making short quick references to any questions you want to ask or points you wish to raise or comment on. When your caller has finished speaking refer back to your notes and take action. If you are thinking of answers and responses whilst the caller is speaking, you are not listening.

Say it again
If you are having difficulty listening, make the necessary adjustments. You might say, “I’m sorry I missed that last point. Please repeat that for me.”

Watch the stereotypes
Avoid stereotyping individuals by making assumptions about how you expect them to act and what you expect them to say. This will bias your listening.

Be aware of the barriers to listening
• We think we’re right and the other person is wrong
• We feel we have to provide help right away
• We prefer to talk rather than listen
• We are waiting for gaps or pauses to jump in with our response

And don’t forget to keep practising...

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