People Are Poor Listeners

Many of the problems in this world are due to poor listening. Volumes have been written for as many years as any of us can remember. Yet, there is still the agent, customer representative, spouse or our own darn selves who don’t really listen to what the other person is really saying. Currently I average 2-3 phone calls a week “putting out fires” or re-visiting a place of business to straighten out an issue that was caused by a side due to poor communication. Naturally there are many reasons for this, lack of attention in a busy world that requires all of our attention for one. However, people doing it to each other is the part I cannot figure out. Ordinary folks like you or I might have these issues and then cause the same problem back to each other. It is as if a vicious cycle of hurting one another, maybe without realizing it. We don’t do it on purpose, and we hate it when someone messes up because they did not listen correctly, but then we do the same thing to someone else. Go figure!

In the case of drycleaning, laundry and wash and fold business, all one must do is repeat back what the customer said, i.e.: “I would like extra heavy starch,” CSRs reply: “extra heavy starch,” drycleaning customer: “please remove old crease and iron in a correct one.” CSR, “new crease, remove bad one.” Nothing sounds more reassuring than to have a CSR of any industry repeat back (short abbreviated form is ok) what the customer asked for. When is the last time you heard that done in any business today? It remains shocking to many that lack of professional CSR skills continues to plague the industry, despite all the classes avilable and articles written. I ask myself, what is missing? It must be a social thing. A happy CSR will readily do whatever is required of their job and are happy to do so because they have a pleasant manner and practice good social and business skills. The result of the quest is that after 30 days, few employees continue to act like a processional CSR. They get angry with their boss, they have a lousy manager, they aren’t given the skills needed and they don’t like the pay they are getting after looking at their first paycheck and so on and so on. Again, a social problem, not a drycleaning and laundry problem. Unless you the owner allow it to be. Therein lies the rub.

After searching for help I found some good suggestions by a company that does training for listening skills on the internet. Active Listening Skills by Dr. John Gottman.

1. Focus on being interested, not interesting.

2. Motivate yourself to listen.

3. Pay attention to the speaker. Duh…

4. Control your reactions.

5. Don’t daydream.

6. Listen for trigger words and expressions.

7. Listen for main ideas.

8. Focus on the message.

9. Withhold judgement until the speaker is finished.

10. Look at the commonalities.

11. Tune in with ALL your attention.

12. Communicate that you are listening with a nod or sound.

13. Paraphrase what the speaker said.

14. Maintain that precious and most valuable asset, eye contact.

15. Let go of your own agenda.

16. Turn off the TV.

Most People Don’t Listen With The Intent To Understand, They Listen With The Intent To Reply

Actually, when you get right down to it folks, how difficult is it to listen to someone an for hour? Is Church that disengaging for an hour? Is your child no less important to listen to? Do you attend trade shows to listen to someone an hour or so with no commitment to learning? What’s your commitment level? Ask yourself. Learning can and should be fun. Gee, with your whole business at stake I would think that requiring your CSRs to attend any and everything that is in town or at a convention about customer skills would be mandatory. Someone once said,” invest in your employees and you will have better employees”. A good attendee of a class for your CSRs would include mandatory note taking and a review the following week.

 Don’t allow pretense hearing instead of active hearing (judged by facial response) be the norm. Selective listening is a no-no because it involves a selective desired part of the message to be heard by your CSR, thus ignoring the real message of a statement. Real focus means to put everything else out of your mind and committing to a real listening and learning experience that your boss has paid for. A good listener will not only listen to what is being said, but also to what is left unsaid or only partially said.

Carry A Pen And Paper With You

Effective listening involves observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages, as well as what is being said at any given moment. Ten principals of listening to add to this would be to STOP TALKING, Don’t talk, listen. When someone else is talking, listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. JUST LISTEN. When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify so that you can insure you have received their message with accuracy. Prepare yourself to listen. Relax and focus on what you have committed to that day. Give your speaker a comfortable, at ease feeling, so that they may communicate better to you. Relax and focus on the topic. Put other things out of your mind. Don’t drift off into other areas of your day and/or your private life. Give all your energy and attention to the one talking. Our human mind is easily distracted. I like to start out my day of a lecture with a clear mind, go over notes in your handout and prepare for a “learning day.” Take a pencil and paper. It literally stuns me as to how many people do not carry pen and paper today. Thanks to the internet for that.

I can tell you from my own experience as a speaker that it can be real fun to listen to exchanges and questions from your class or audience which will serve to tell you that you have an engaging group. This would often put me at ease. Teaching or learning can be great fun. We can’t all be teachers/speakers but we can all be good, listeners. Take my advice and train your CSRs so that your company and our world will be a better place to do business.

As a customer, do you like feeling that you are just the next person in line? Probably not. Don’t treat people doing business with you like objects. 

I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!

About Kenney Slatten

Kenney Slatten Training Company is a Dry Cleaning and Laundry Consulting Firm Specializing in Environmental Training and Certification. Kenney Slatten Training Company, or KSTC, is based in Texas with offices in Arizona and California. Kenney Slatten is a certified instructor/trainer for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), is actively involved in the San Diego Drycleaners Association, the California Cleaners Association, is an Allied Trade board member of DLI, the Executive Director of Western States Drycleaners & Launderers Association, a member of the International Drycleaners Congress, and a columnist for American Drycleaner and Western Cleaner and Launderer magazines. The Kenney Slatten Training Company provides the only complete environmental training and inspection process. Started in 1987, Kenny became the first instructor for California E.P.A, OSHA, and state regulations. Kenney publishes a 36 point plant requirement every year in trade publications which is his guide for plant training and certification. We are the only company that provides dry cleaning and laundry specific environmental training. Kenney Slatten is a third generation drycleaner/laundryman from Houston, Texas. His company, KSTC, can teach you the skills you need to have a successful plant. His wagon is found all over the country parked under a tree just waiting for the next call to come to your plant. He can be reached at (800) 429-3990; e-mail: or go to: www.