The Eastern Way: Fundamental #6 – Listen generously
This week’s fundamental was written by Melanie Sauer. Melanie Sauer has over 15 years in the banking industry. Her career started out with Chase Auto Finance in Garden City, NY, as a Primary Collections Specialist. Melanie moved with the company to Tampa, FL, to commence working in the Lease Termination Department in the new Florida location where she specialized in Property Tax Collections. Upon returning from Tampa, Melanie began working with Sovereign Bank as a Customer Service Representative and worked her way up to the Marketing Manager position for the Commercial Equipment and Vehicle Finance Division. It was at Sovereign that she was promoted to an Assistant Vice President of Marketing. Melanie joined the Specialty Vehicle Funding Group in July 2014 as a Sales Associate and is excited to further her career and expand her in-depth knowledge in banking with the vehicle financing market.
Fundamental #6 – “Listen generously” – Listening is more than simply “not speaking”. Give others your undivided attention. Set aside your own judgments and preconceived notions. Listen with care and empathy. Most importantly, listen to understand.
When I started out in the banking industry, I worked in the collections department at Chase Auto Finance. Each department went through specialized training to provide great customer service no matter what department the customers were calling into. Throughout the training, we were taught how to break down the customers into four different groups (see graph below) and identify how to speak to the customer by their personality type. We were educated on how the importance of listening to the customer can assist us in providing the best service for them simply by determining their specific personality. For example, if someone who calls in and it is determined that their personality falls into, let’s say the red box, they are quick and to the point. This customer does not have time for small talk, no long drawn out answers and is just seeking immediate results. For a customer who falls within the blue box, they need to feel a personal connection. Small talk would be greatly appreciated and the customer would not mind if they are on the phone for the several extra minutes.
I would utilize this training in making my calls – which let’s face it, during any collection call, inbound or outbound, is never easy. It was important to understand what the customer was actually saying and not immediately segregate them into a category of a “dead beat”. Was this a one-time default? What changed in their life? Will this be an on-going pattern? What can WE do to help? It is important while listening to not assume who we are speaking to and what their personal situation is. The more you listen, the more you understand. Of course, irate calls would come through, and it was easy to tune out to what the customer was saying and focus primarily on my point, which was that the payment was due. After the training my attitude changed. When I started to get a little heated, I would place my phone on mute and just let the customer vent, while taking notes, and say whatever they needed to say and patiently wait for my time to respond – remove my voice from the equation. It reminds me of an old saying, “You were given two ears and one mouth for a reason”. Once I gave my full attention to them, I was able to understand and feel their frustration. From this point, my mind shifted into the mode of how I can help. The customer’s tone would change because they knew I was listening with care and without judgment. Customers always want to feel that you can relate to them and you understand their needs.
When we are not on the phone, most times people get frustrated because they can see your body language, lack of eye contact and the sense that you are tuning them out. This is a dead giveaway and appearance you give someone to appear as if you are not listening – maybe you’re on your phone or you have a look across your face of “just stop talking so I can talk.”
We should all find it imperative to give our customers the same compassion that we would want to be shown and take the time to listen with an open mind. “Do to others what you would want them to do to you”. You will see how much more can be accomplished and less time wasted on ironing out miscommunications when you simply take the time to listen.