Listening to Customers Can Be Your Most Powerful Tool

Being an attentive listener not only provides you the opportunity to give customers what they want out of a job, but also puts you in a good position to clear up misunderstandings and prevent unrealistic expectations

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You know that tools can make or break a job. What would your answer be if someone asked you what is your most important tool?

A jetter? An inspection camera? We’d argue that it’s your ears.

Think about it. What your customer wants is not always cut and dry. But it’s your job to give them what they want and to help them understand what they need if that differs from what they want. If you don’t take the time to find out what their wants and needs are and how those align or mismatch, how can you do your job well?

You can’t. You need to listen. 

It’s not always easy. Sometimes your customers may not know how to articulate exactly what it is they’re looking for. They might not know what they really want or need. You need to probe and ask questions to get to the real problem and the real desired result. 

Relying on your ears instead of just your knowledge and work tools empowers you to better serve your customers and figure out how to give them exactly what they want. And if they get what they want, they’ll be happy, right?

But it’s not just about giving your customers what they want. Listening also allows you to do these two key things:

1. Clear up confusion and avoid misunderstandings

How many negative reviews out there are linked to misunderstandings and confusion on the part of the customer? We don’t know the exact number, but we’re willing to bet it’s a big number. 

Many times, customers are dissatisfied with a company not because the technician did a bad job, but because he or she did a bad job of listening to the customer and making sure their needs were met and that they knew what to expect. That they understood why the technician recommended the work he or she did, what went into it and what the cost would be. 

So ask your customers questions. Listen to them. Listen for words, tones and phrases that might signal they aren’t quite understanding and need a little more clarity from you. It’ll make your job a lot easier in the long run and might even prevent those one-star reviews that have less to do with the result than the experience. 

2. Prevent unrealistic expectations

Let’s face it: Customers can be unrealistic. They can make assumptions about what a job will look like, what a repair will cost, and a lot more. In the end, these assumptions can lead to grumpy, disappointed customers and a bad day for you and your team. 

What unrealistic expectations do is set you up for failure. What’s the best way to smash those unrealistic expectations and assumptions? Listen for them.  

Many times customers give away their assumptions in the things they say to us before the work is done. But if we’re not really listeningwe’ll miss them — as well as our opportunity to clear things up before it’s too late.

So next time you’re on a service call, make use of the most important tool of them all: your ears. Your customers will appreciate it and you’ll have the reviews to show for it.

About the Authors: Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They’re also the co-hosts of the "Blue Collar Proud (BCP) Show," a podcast that’s all about having and living the blue-collar dream, and the co-authors of the book Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. They're also co-creators of the award-winning app Closing Commander, which helps contractors close more estimates effortlessly. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit,, or


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