There is a difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is merely the perception of sound waves while listening is far more complex. If we are to listen to a sound we must not only hear it we must process, understand, interpret and be ready to react to it. Listening can be taught and refined, unfortunately it is rarely formally found in educational curriculum
At no time in our current daily lives is the skill of listening more evident than a phone call to a “customer service representative”. The lack of listening skills in customer service often redefines the job to a position better defined as ”customer aggravator”.
Who among us has not called a customer service department to ask a question only to hear an answer that is simply a canned response that is not even remotely connected with the question? Yes, they hear you but they are not listening with a focus on your needs.
“Customer Service” is not an easy job, and for too long in too many companies it has been understaffed, underpaid, and untrained. The next time you hear “your call is important to us” as you wait on hold for 15 minutes contemplate how much less holding time there would be if the person you ultimately reach were well trained, with listening skills and had the ability to actually provide the service you require.
Think of the time and money that could be saved, not to mention the reduction in stress and lowering of blood pressure if customer service representatives could actually listen. I mean it wouldn’t solve our national debt or eliminate the need for healthcare but it would improve our quality of life.
Now for a moment imagine you are on the other end of the phone. You have voices automatically fed into you headset requiring your friendly capable assistance. Callers of every type; foggy brained, confused, aggravated and irritated. You are expected to know it all, solve every problem and keep all those nut balls happy. Is it possible? Sure but makes for a long hard day.
Some companies train employees to only partially listen then respond. Drive to your nearest McDonald’s drive-thru and say, “I’d like a hamburger and a coke” and the voice comes back, “do you want cheese on that? The only logical response required is “I wanted a hamburger not a cheese burger and I would prefer a plastic cover on the coke instead of a cheese cover.”
Listening and speaking are two skills of communication that should be an integral part of every educational curriculum. Maybe, just maybe if we all worked on those skills we could communicate better. Perhaps, even our governmental leaders could hear the people they represent and actually listen then respond with focus on the people.