Listening – the first skill required for customer service

We are in Pune since Feb 28th and the fresh sugarcane juice that’s available in every nook and corner of this city is something that we both love. We try and drink atleast a cup of fresh juice everyday. As soon as we step out of the Airbnb that we are staying at, there is a mega Patanjali store and they have a sugar cane juice vending machine. Most of the days we drink the juice there as its cool without ice being added, since they keep the sugarcane used for juicing in a fridge.

A couple of days back we went out to buy fruits and vegetables and on our way back stopped at this place to have juice. Since Mom was at home, we asked the young boy who was at the juice station to pack one cup and give us two cups of juice. I had not taken the container that I usually do to pack the juice in so asked him if he had a bottle for it. He said, he can pack the juice but he can pack only two cups and not one. I told him, we want three cups totally, so could he pack one cup and give us two cups ? He refused saying, he will only pack two cups and more. I told him, to go ahead and pack two cups and give us one cup to drink right away. We brought the juice home and drank it with Amma.

Now – this young boy wasn’t LISTENING at all !! We were buying three cups of juice anyway, he wasn’t charging us anything extra for the bottle, so all he had to do was pour one cup into that bottle and give us the two cups to drink at the store. There was no logic to his argument that he will pack only two cups and more. If he had said, you need to buy a minimum of two cups for me to pack the juice, I get that, but when we were buying three cups, he really had no reason to refuse to pack one cup.

Every customer service person does this … you call up a phone company and the person at the other end is busy explaining how their plans work and which new plan you need to upgrade to, but doesn’t LISTEN to your problem. Or for that matter, the dozens of calls from insurance companies trying to sell you their latest product … they just keep going on and on about how good their product is but don’t LISTEN to the customer’s questions. A recent experience with ICICI is very interesting – I had to surrender a policy and I “somehow” managed to do that online. When I called their helpline, the person at the other end, just kept repeating their guidelines on how I had to go to the nearest branch and then surrender their policy without LISTENING to what I was saying. I just disconnected when my frustration reached its peak and told Krishnan that we probably will have to deal with this when we get back to Delhi. Surprisingly I got the entire amount of the surrendered policy into my account within a week of the maturity date !! So even though ICICI has made things easier for the customer, their customer service reps don’t seem to know about it and more importantly are not willing to learn by LISTENING.

Whatever else you teach your customer service team members – please teach them the art of LISTENING. If they get that right, chances are they will get everything else right, because they would have understood what the customer is asking for.

Anyone LISTENING ? 🙂


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