Are we just working, or are we also listening?

A speaker I heard several years ago referenced famed motivator Zig Ziglar. He said Ziglar told a story about two railroad men, Joe and Burt, putting spikes in for a new rail line. Along came an elegant railroad car carrying the company bigwigs. All of a sudden, a voice called out, “Joe!” and the train stopped. A man jumped down, hugged Joe, and they had a wonderful visit.

Joe and the man had started working for the railroad in the same kind of job on the same day many years before. After the brief encounter, when the train pulled away, Burt asked Joe, “So how come you two started working on the same day on the same kind of job, and now he’s president and you’re still putting in spikes?” Joe replied, “Because I joined the railroad to work for $1.65 an hour and he joined to work for the railroad.”

Andrew Carnegie said, “The average person puts only 25 percent of energy and ability into work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50 percent of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between that devote 100 percent.”

In his book, Coaching for Improved Work Performance, Ferdinand F. Fournies says, “When you hire people as employees you do not buy people, or their bodies, or their brains, or their values. You merely rent their behavior. This might be broom-pushing behavior, typing behavior, drafting behavior, selling behavior, problem-analysis behavior, idea-giving behavior, etc. Each job that must be done in your company is a collection of specific behaviors that, when done by the worker correctly, constitute that specific job.”

During a recent visit with other business folks, the discussion centered on the current generation’s preference to work in teams. With the help of customer management software, any team member can step up to help, which creates a seamless and hassle-free customer experience. Many are seeing that happening in our own businesses, where folks are pairing up to work on projects. These folks agreed that having more than one pair of ears makes for better understanding of the customers’ needs.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Webster’s Dictionary says, “Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood.”

I recently had a couple of customer service experiences that make me wonder why active listening isn’t an important part of customer service training for team members. Today there are times when it seems as though you might get a better understanding of what a customer is asking for if the customer sent the selling representative a text message!

When I shop, I like to be treated as though the representative team member is really listening to me. I hope our world never gets to the point of having to go beyond verbal conversation. There are a lot of folks who think it’s easier to speak than to text.

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