There is an art to listening well. Listening is certainly more than hearing what your travel client or supplier is saying. Hearing a critique or commentary is a good beginning, but the art of active listening involves 2 additional steps that are indispensable to effective communication. If you don’t bring all of the components of active listening into a conversation, chances are you will miss something important.
Good active listening also involves questioning. Have you fully understood what the speaker is saying? The best way to know is to reformulate what you have heard into your own words and then asking the other if your understanding is correct. There are times when shades of meaning are lost or “mis-taken” and the subtle differences in what was said and what was meant create confusion. Reaffirm your understanding by asking for clarity and repeating the essence of what you have heard. People often use words carelessly and asking for clarity is the only way to ensure understanding.
The other component to effective active listening is action. For a client to feel heard, you must be able to act on your understanding on their behalf. Affirm your understanding with a solid follow-up. Write a note confirming your understanding and the course of action you are taking in response. Let the client know their efforts to communicate with you have been successful and that you are acting on it. Your clients will feel empowered and valued as a result, and you will have strengthened your relationship in a significant and professional way.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.