Have you ever encountered an angry customer and don't know how to respond? Or how to address an impulse shopper returning an item she just bought a minute ago?

A customer in a store approaches a clerk. She asks the clerk in a condescending way,

Sounds familiar?

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Different customers have different concerns that require customized solutions. For example, one solution for an angry customer may not work with a discount or impulse shopper.

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It is important to listen activelyto customers to better understand their concerns.

What Are Active Listening Skills?

Don't think or judge, just listen.

— Sarah Dessen, American author

Two women talking at a desk. One woman demonstrates active listening skills.

Active listening is a soft skill that focuses on what people say. American psychologist Carl Rogers started active listening as an effective tool to help people with their personal problems.

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Active Listening

  • Focus on the conversation

  • Provide feedback

  • Rephrase/Reiterate statements

  • Hold back judgment

  • Ask open-ended questions

  • Observe non-verbal cues

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Not Active Listening

  • Being distracted

  • Interrupting the speaker

  • Pretending to listen

  • Suggesting solutions without full understanding

  • Providing unsolicited advice

Why Are Active Listening Skills Important?

Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking.

— Bernard Baruch, American business mogul and political advisor

A graphic depicting a group of colleagues achieving a goal together.

Active listening skills in customer service help you:

  • receive and act on customer feedback

  • promote healthy customer relationships

  • reduce conflicts and address concerns

  • deliver an exceptional customer experience

Active Listening Skills in Customer Service

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Here's how it looks when you use active listening skills in customer service scenarios...

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Customer: I want to cancel my dental insurance. I recently lost my job and can't afford to pay it.

Customer Representative:I'm sorry you lost your job [provide feedback — empathy]. I heard that you couldn't pay for your current coverage. Am I correct [rephrase/reiterate statement]?

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Customer: Your internet service is bad. I'm switching to another provider!

Customer Representative: I understand [hold back judgment].Are there specific issues you want us to address [ask open-ended questions]?

Knowledge Check ✅

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Apply active listening skills to the scenario below:

An angry and frustrated customer is returning a defective item to your store and demanding a full refund. How would you address his concern?


Let him vent out and apologize when necessary.


Ask the customer how he handled the product.


Reject his demand for a refund and explain the return policy.


Escalate the issue to your supervisor immediately.


Which is the best answer for the above scenario?

Take Action

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Now that you've learned how active listening addresses customer concerns, try these activities to hone your new active listening skills.


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