Listen carefully to your customers


May 3, 2017

Customers depend on us to listen to their needs and respond with great service, so it’s important to listen carefully.

Photo: ©

Photo: ©

In this world of too many messages coming from multiple resources, including social media, billboards, radio, newspapers and TV — and I know I’ve left a few out — are we able to listen to the actual message? The ability to clearly communicate your plans to your team is getting harder, as people may not listen closely enough to the message conveyed.

For several years now, while speaking at various pest management conferences, I often include a listening exercise in the middle of my talk to kind of wake everyone up. It’s not that I’ve been putting them to sleep (I hope), but it’s just good practice to break the boredom of listening. Here are two exercises to try:

The sound of sleep

  1. Ask everyone to put down all pencils and pens, and only listen carefully to the words spoken. Remind them not to cheat.
  2. Slowly and carefully speak the following words in a monotone voice: bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, night, eat, comfort, sound, slumber, snore.
  3. Tell them to write down as many of the words they can remember. Ask them to not tell anyone what they are writing down. Give them about a minute to do this.
  4. Ask them to raise their hand if they heard the word sleep.

This is where this exercise gets fun. Inevitably, about 75 percent of them will raise their hands. Tell them to keep their hands raised, and to look around the room. Then inform them that the word sleep was not one of the words spoken. Everyone gets a big kick out of seeing who wrote down the word they didn’t hear.

The telephone game

Another great listening exercise is to play the children’s game of “Telephone.”

  1. Gather your team in a circle and whisper a sentence in the first person’s ear.
  2. Tell him or her to whisper to the next person what was said.
  3. Go around the circle, and see whether the same sentence gets around to the last person. Most of the time, the original sentence gets lost in the process.

In a world where there is so much to listen to, we need to do all we can to bring listening to the front of the line of skills on which we need to improve. Our customers depend on us to listen to their needs and respond with great service, so it’s important to listen carefully.

You can reach Johnson, a past president of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), president of Sevierville, Tenn.-based Johnson Pest Control, and founder of ACES for Business at


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