Customer Service: Listening Beats the Checklist Every Time

Guest Post by Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Today’s guest post is by Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, Founder & President CAS, Inc. She uses real life stories to ignite true customer focus, and here is her story.

You can’t have a discussion about customer service without customers stressing the importance of listening. Yet so many customer service managers and teams focus on checklists and procedures above listening and adapting to customers.

Listening beats the checklist

A Hospitality Story…

A customer arrived at a well known hotel chain on a Sunday to deliver a workshop on Monday and Tuesday at her client’s site.  She checked in and went to the room.  The bed was made and the room was in order.  Then she went into the bathroom and saw a white tub that was black on the bottom with filth.  She had to go out to a local store anyway so she planned to stop at the Front Desk and let them know.

There was a long line at the desk so she went to the store with the intention of stopping at the Front Desk when she returned.  Upon her return, she told the Front Desk clerk that the bathtub in her room was filthy.

The clerk turned to the computer, checked something, and then said to her:

That room has been cleaned.”

The customer became angry at this response.  From her shopping bag she pulled out a container of foam cleaner and a sponge and said to the clerk:

“Well I just bought this cleaner and a sponge.  Who is going to clean the tub, I or your staff?”

The Front Desk clerk replied, “Oh my, I am so embarrassed.  You shouldn’t have to do that.” The customer then said, “the room is disgusting.  You should be embarrassed to put people in there.  Please move me to a clean modern room.”

They moved her to a room that was on the executive floor — clean and modern.

Your Choices With Customers

When you hear a customer express dissatisfaction, would you:

  • Look at your checklist to see if the standard procedures have been followed and reply “that room has been cleaned” or
  • Listen to how the current situation makes the customer feel , empathize, and offer a solution.

Which would the customers prefer?

Customers don’t care about standard procedures and checklists.  They feel slighted and insulted when they report a problem and you quote standard procedures.  What does the customer hear?

When you quote standard procedures instead of accommodations and solutions, the customers hear:

  • You don’t matter
  • You are wrong
  • We don’t care
  • The checklist matters more than you do

Checklists don’t ensure great customer service.  Listening and problem solving does.  Checklists underpin procedures especially in large scale organizations. They undermine great service when you believe that they are more important than listening and adapting.

Don’t train your employees to use task checklists with customers. Train to listen and problem solve.

If you must use a checklist, make sure that “listen and focus on problem solving” is the first item on that list.

Listening beats the checklist every time for customer service excellence!

(c)2015 Kate Nasser

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Kate NasserAbout Kate Nasser
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, Founder & President CAS, Inc. , turns interaction challenges into mega business success. With her Masters in Organizational Psychology and 25+ years of teaching Delivering The Ultimate Customer Experience, she ignites zeal and passion for service and teamwork.

In her keynotes and workshops to thousands, Kate’s energy, humor, and practicality capture everyone’s attention and commitment. She takes your teams from inspiration to action for your company’s success. Kate also runs the People Skills global Twitter chat and the online people skills community on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. You can reach Kate at 908.595.1515 (USA) or email: She invites you to connect with her as well on LinkedIn and Twitter .

From my professional experience to your success, Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Copyright © 2018 Steve DiGioia

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3 thoughts on “Customer Service: Listening Beats the Checklist Every Time

  1. I would feel insulted that someone is questioning me as to what I had seen in my room! How horrible to be thought inadequate in judgement!
    Also, I would feel that the hotel’s quality control needed a bit of a revamp if someone is missing areas in cleanliness!
    Thirdly, I work in customer service. If I have a customer with a complaint or other issue, I make sure that I LISTEN first and try to solve second. How can you solve if you don’t listen? Use Common Sense should be at the top of a checklist, too!

    • Hi Lisa,
      I’m with you on this! Questioning the customer’s judgment about how dirty the room is complete denial of the customer’s importance and perspective.

      Love your addition about “common sense” and yet I see a big lack of it when I am the customer 🙂

      Many thanks for contributing to this discussion. I am so grateful.

      Warmest wishes,

      • Good morning Lisa and Kate,

        Many times we in customer service forget what it’s like on the other side of the counter, when WE are the customer and how we like to be treated.

        Service personnel see names and faces but forget there is a person behind that name and face. How would We like to be treated? How do we EXPECT to be treated?

        Once we answer these, and more, questions the next level of service should rise to the top.

        Thank you for your comments and of course Kate for your great guest post!

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