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Complaint Handling: Listening Attentively to Achieve a Positive Result

Listening to another person (whether or not you are likely to be able to help them) means that you acknowledge that they exist, and that what they have to say is worth considering. Listening is not always a purely passive activity, however. Active listening involves hearing, but also participating in a two-way flow of ideas by encouraging the customer (even when they are complaining) to continue developing the main stream of their ideas, as well as the “sidetracks” or implications of what they are saying. It may also involve you as listener periodically checking with the customer, summarizing or paraphrasing what is being said as a reality check for both sides.

Here’s how to become more effective at listening enthusiastically and positively:

  1. Give your full attention to the person talking. Put down the pen, take your hands off the keyboard, and shift your gaze so that you are concentrating on the call and no-one or nothing else.
  2. Don’t be distracted by your contact’s negative tone or attitude or demeanor on the phone. Simply concentrate on what is being said.
  3. Don’t get so upset with what a person is saying that you spend so much time and concentration thinking of a response that you lose track of the rest of the person’s words.
  4. Where appropriate, take notes of what the customer is saying. Do this casually, so as not to offend or worry them, but don’t do it carelessly, so that you have less-than-useful notes that cannot be kept as a record to refer back to.
  5. Don’t “tune out” when a customer is talking. We sometimes pre-judge others, presuming that what they are saying is too boring or too predictable to pay much attention to. We are often right, but we are sometimes wrong in such judgments, and the consequences of being wrong might inflict more pain than the pain inherent in listening to the boring and the predictable. Choose the lesser of the two evils, and give them your full and undivided attention.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Complaint Handling: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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