by Melva Black, Ed.D.
Small businesses, Fortune 500s, corporations, non-profits, and government offices are in constant flux, altering their business models, services, and goods to meet the demands of consumers. However, there is one constant presence that contributes to the health and welfare of each of these environments… administrative assistants! Administrative assistants, in many cases, are known to be the cornerstone of the company. You likely know intricacies about the company operations and more than likely juggle multiple roles. These roles often include, scheduling, budgeting, event planning, payroll, human resources, and in some instances being a confidant and counselor. In a recent poll conducted by Quill (2015)* of administrative assistants, the results indicated that 42 percent of respondents have been in their position for six or more years. This is an indication that administrative assistants are members of a very exclusive and experienced office sub-sector.
While you should be lauded for your art of skillfully managing multiple tasks, it is in large part your ability to actively listen that contributes to getting the job done. Because it is important for you to handle varied tasks while operating optimally, there are five important active listening tips you can employ to manage it all.
Be aware of noise in your work environment that can create barriers to active listening. Noise can be anything from the tapping of a pen to a plane flying overhead. When presented with a task, draw your attention to that one assignment and resist intentional and unintentional distractions. Customers ascertain you are taking them and their presence serious. This takes practice.
Identify Customer’s Needs
Typically, customer’s needs can be categorized as rational or emotional. It is incumbent upon you to discern which one to respond to. If it is rational, customers are looking for clear and concise language to satisfy a specific request. If it is emotional, the customer is looking for an interpersonal connection to appeal to the experience.
Customers consistently rate helpfulness as one of the top categories of customer service quality. Active listening helps customer’s feel emotionally supported and understood, thus connected to a company which helps retain their business. This is the point where they can become marketing representatives for your business or deter other potential customers.
Avoid preconceived negative judgement based on a customer’s appearance and/or verbal delivery. Sometimes these things keep us from using quality active listening skills because our attention is focused elsewhere. Staying focused on the message and deciphering the intent of the message is key to avoiding these pitfalls.
Ask Clarifying Questions
Paraphrase what a customer says for the purpose of clarifying and confirming the message. Also, include in your paraphrasing the emotions behind the words so the customer feels you have accurately grasped the full understanding and intent. Although customers may not know that you were practicing “active listening” they will know that you paid attention and sufficiently engaged with them.
Finally, be patient. This can be rewarding for the customer and you!
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