Wait, What? How To Get Your Retail Employees To Listen

By Bob Phibbs

WaitWhat-_2

Listening is a skill that either makes you or breaks your store.

Maybe it’s because I am a conductor and I learned to focus my listening to hear each part and ask myself, Is what I’m hearing matching up to what is on the page in front of me?

If it didn’t, we had to work on getting that 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 how to make an origami paper crane.

Three times a week she would hand out a piece of paper and have her students listen and fold the paper. She played the five-minute tape just once 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 new paper, start the tape again and repeat the exercise.

What she found was amazing...

When a student could complete the assignment and end up with the paper crane, their grades went up in all subjects.

All subjects, not just hers.

We need to re-think how we train because if the learner can’t focus enough to listen, none of it works.

That’s because they aren’t letting in enough information to process and achieve the desired result.

A common thing I hear Millennials say is, “Wait, what?”  It’s like they are half-listening and then realize they missed something.

How to get your employees to listen

First, be sure your own instruction is very clear. Black and white, not grey.

Next, ask your retail employee for something they have to do or complete.

If they ask you to repeat, pause, then simply say, “I’ve told you. Think back and tell me.”

Wait for them to process.

Don’t leave until they tell you back exactly what you said.

Your attitude while doing this has to be helpful, not exasperated or shaming, or they will resent you.

If they ask for clarity because they don’t understand something, of course, add new information.

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, or for forgetting to enter information in the CRM, or for 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 your customers and your employees.

See also, How To Increase Retail Sales By Listening With Your Eyes And Ears

In Sum

It’s up to you to not to make your retail shoppers repeat themselves just because you have lazy listeners.

Only when we listen clearly to what our customers are saying and not asking them to repeat themselves will the frustration level of your customers go down...

And when their frustration levels go down, 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.

In fact, my online retail sales training begins with four lessons on active listening. Find out more below.

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