Listening is a skill that either makes you or breaks your store.
Maybe it’s because I am also trained as a conductor, and I learned to focus my listening on hearing each part and asking myself, Is what I’m hearing matching up to what is on the page in front of me?
If it didn’t match up, we were trained to work on getting it right before going on to another section.
My mom understood listening was a skill her 8th-grade science students needed to develop. She created an innovative program where she recorded herself giving instructions on making an origami paper crane.
She would hand out a piece of paper three times a week and have her students listen and fold the paper. She played the five-minute tape just once in each session. At the end of the tape, she would collect the unfinished cranes and throw them away. Two days later, she would hand out a new paper, start the tape again and repeat the exercise.
What she found was amazing…
When students could complete the assignment and end up with the paper crane, their grades went up in all subjects.
All subjects, not just hers.
We must re-think how we train because none of it works if the learner can’t focus enough to listen.
That’s because they don’t let in enough information to process and achieve the desired result.
I often hear Millennials say, “Wait, what?” It’s like they are half-listening and then realize they missed something. An effective employee listening strategy is more critical now than ever.
How to get your employees to listen
First, be sure your instruction is very clear—black and white, not shades of grey.
Next, ask your retail employee for something they have to do or complete.
If they ask you to repeat, pause and simply say, “I’ve told you. Think back and tell me.”
Wait for them to process.
Don’t leave until they tell you back precisely what you said.
While doing this, your attitude must be helpful, not exasperated or shaming, or they will resent you.
Add new information if they ask for clarity because they don’t understand something.
Sometimes, employees don’t listen because they don’t think you’re hearing them, so try listening to them first, really listening, and then see what happens.
If you don’t get all they said, ask for clarification on a word, do not just ask them to repeat it.
Note this isn’t like putting a quarter in a jar for saying a swear word, forgetting to enter information in the CRM, or forgetting to ask for a loyalty card.
This is actively managing and engaging your employees’ ears.
It is the fundamental step in removing friction between customers and employees.
It’s up to you not to make your retail shoppers repeat themselves because you have lazy listeners.
Only when we listen clearly to what our customers are saying and do not ask them to repeat themselves will the frustration level of your customers go down…
And when their frustration levels decrease, they can be open to experiencing and enjoying great retail customer service.
As managers and owners, only when you pause before repeating what you just said will you raise the listening standards of your associates.
And when you get them to focus and listen, you’re ready to train them how to sell. That’s where I come in.
My online retail sales training begins with four lessons on active listening. Find out more below.