Communication is “the process of establishing a commonness or oneness of thought between a sender and a receiver” (Cannon, 1997). There are many processes within communication. The Schramm Model perceives communication as a two way conversation between the sender and the receiver. The encoder (sender) passes the message to the decoder (receiver) who interprets it the way they believe is best. Encoding is vital as it starts communication by converting a thought into a process. However if the recipient cannot decode the message or the information the sender is trying to communicate, the message becomes irrelevant. “Thus encoding and decoding are two most important factors of an effective communication without which information can never flow between two individuals” (managementstudyguide.com).
In business and in life, communication is paramount. It is not just about how you hear a message but how well you listen to what is being said. Listening and hearing are two separate entities but are mutually inclusive and are a defining factor in being successful and even unsuccessful in business.
Hearing is physiological act for everyone who can physically hear. It does not require focus; it is an involuntary act and it is only using one of the five senses. Hearing is passive and is perceiving sound by ear. Listening however, is not automatic; it is a psychological and a conscious act that requires concentrating, analysing and dissecting what is heard in order to interpret a message. Listening is voluntary.
According to Howack Associates, statistics have shown that in a typical business day, we spend 45% of our time listening, 30% of our time talking, 16% reading and 9% writing. Statistics have shown that 85% of what we know we have learned through listening.
In business a crucial way in which we communicate with customers is through data. For example, e-mail campaigns can be measured by looking and listening to data such as:
Open rates- the number of e-mails opened by the recipients. This however does not illustrate how successful the campaign is. Customers or potential ones may read the campaign but it does not mean they are interested in the product or service
Delivery rate – the number of e-mails going through people’s inboxes.
Bounce rate – the number of e-mails that came back as they failed to reach the recipient.
Click-through rate – “This metric (number of clicks divided by the total emails sent, x100 for a percentage) relates to how many people have clicked a link on the email and offers arguably a more telling barometer of how good your content is, since if high numbers of recipients are clicking through, then your message must be relevant”(pure360.com).
Telemarketing can be measured by listening to the data of the number of calls made, the number of leads made within a particular time period and by the number of sales made per hour. Telesales can also be measured “by judging the effectiveness of the cold calls by the reactions of customers contacted” (nibusinessinfo.co.uk).
With the continuous rise of social media, business can use various tools to listen to and hear what customers are saying about them online. It gives business the opportunity to communicate with customers directly. It is like face to face communication but on an online platform. However, listening and hearing to what customers say about a brand is not just an external factor but it is an internal one too. It can help ultimately lead to higher level of customer satisfaction.
When people think of customers they usually assume that they are just external – wrong. Customers are also internal and they are called employees. Just like we invest our time in customers to satisfy their needs and get a return of investment, employers also have to invest in employees. By listening to and hearing what employees are happy or unhappy about, looking the data available, management can work with employees to construct a plan that will mutually benefit both parties. By doing so this will reflect externally in providing a better service to the customer.
The Schramm model states that “there is no meaning in a message except what people put into it” (praccreditation.org). We have all heard the expression “selective hearing” right? We sometimes choose what we wish to hear? At times we have all been guilty of this. However, there are a few simple tips that can make us better listeners so we can communicate better and the message we wish to get across does not become lost in translation.
Step 1 – Be patient. When someone is talking to you or in a team take your time to actually listen to what they are saying. Don’t get trigger happy and assume you know what they are trying to say without letting them finish the message entirely.
Step 2 – Ask. If you are not sure what the message is that someone is trying to convey whether it is online or offline don’t be afraid to ask them directly to repeat question or ask a member or staff who has a clearer understanding.
Step 3 – Provide feedback. Always give feedback on what the speaker has said so it shows you are on the same wavelength and have a clear understanding.
Step 4 – If someone is speaking to you offline maintain eye contact and focus on them and not the surroundings around you. However when maintaining eye contact try not come across nervous or make them feel nervous.
Step 5 – Use paraphrasing skills. This helps understand the speaker’s needs.
Although these steps may come across as simple, however it can be challenging at times to adhere to them when working in a fast paced environment, have targets and deadlines to meet. But the most important thing to remember is the end user – the customer. Ask yourself this “can I really afford to misinterpret a message because I am rushing?”
To listen is to hear what a consumer (internal or external) is saying and to hear what a consumer is saying is to listen to them.