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Some customers, when upset with you, your product or your company, just don’t seem to want to listen to what you have to say. Even after you’ve tried to explain things, their rants pick up where they left off, as if you’d never said anything at all. It’s all you can do to keep from shouting at the top of your lungs, “If you’d just stop talking and listen, I might be able to help you!”

There are two things likely happening here that you need to be aware of. First, your customers have probably been stewing over the issue for some time, and have created a ‘script’ that’s been running over and over in their heads. They’ve got things to say, and by gum, they’re going to say them! Second, they aren’t quite convinced that you really understand the problem yet. The secret to dealing with All Talk & No Listen is to use effective Prompting and Echoing techniques. Here’s how they work:

1. As they are talking, instead of trying to interrupt or shorten their ‘scripts’, (as tempting as it can be) use words and very brief phrases which prompt them to get everything off their chests. (eg. “really?” “Oh no,” “Is that right?” “How terrible!”). Then listen very carefully to what they have to say. This gives them the satisfaction of getting through their scripts, as well as giving them the sense that you really do care about them and their concerns.

2. When they have made an important point, echo it back to them as close to word-for-word as possible. This sends the message that you actually understand their concerns, and will help prevent them from feeling the need to repeat themselves. For example, if a customer says, “it broke after just one day!” you might respond with “oh, no, it broke after just one day?” (Note: Be careful of your tone of voice!)

You may be surprised at how effective these two simple techniques can be. And, the great thing about All Talk and No Listens is that, once you win them over, they often become your greatest ambassadors.

Good Luck!



More about this topic can be found in Winning with the Customer from Hell – a survival guide

[This is from the Archive Project – where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 6 September, 2004]

Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 23 years

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