It’s amazing how often we place an order in a restaurant, a drink from a bar or a snack from a café and the person serving gets it wrong. We end up with something completely different from what we ordered or a variation of, only for us to complain and ask for a replacement which ultimately, costs the business money.
This isn’t limited to the food and beverage industry, it’s rampant with service providers everywhere. Although we are being asked “Can I help you?” our response isn’t completely absorbed with errors and misinterpretations common place. It’s mind boggling how often a person assisting or serving, doesn’t listen and gets it wrong.
Staff’s listening skills are a continual frustration of customers. One reason why this occurs, is our tendency of hearing, a physical process of perceiving sound, without listening which is a mental process of processing meaning. A classic example of this, is being asked at a checkout “Would you like a bag?”, even if we respond “no”, the person proceeds to provide us with a bag anyway. Although this can be partially linked to habit, the frequency in which this occurs, demonstrates a worrying trend. Our active listening skills, need some work.
Wikipedia states, active listening “requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said”. Increasing awareness and providing staff with training in active listening is one way in which businesses can improve this vital element of providing quality service. Taking this one step further is upskilling in reflective listening, where a person repeats the order or request back to the customer, to confirm their understanding. By repeating or paraphrasing, the person is more likely to remember what the customer has said and as a result, get the order or request right the first time.
Reflective listening also shows an intent to listen and understand. Too often, it seems there is a lack of desire to truly understand customers’ wants and needs. Assumptions are made, hoping it will be enough, to satisfy and allow them to move onto the next customer.
All of us as human beings have a basic desire to be heard and understood. Therefore, having a genuine intent to listen to customers and fulfill their request with accuracy, is a basic in customer service. Although we can train staff to improve these skills, largely listening is a choice. A person makes a conscious choice to hear, to listen, to understand and then to serve.