Are Listening Skills—and Decent Customer Service—Lost in this Generation’s Fresh Graduates?

Not_ListeningHere’s a typical scene every time I go through a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru…

Me: One medium hot latte with skim milk
Crew: Okay, would you like it hot or cold?
Me: Hot (okay…he’s too young to be deaf)
Crew: Whole or skim milk?
Me: Skim milk (getting impatient here…)

Every. Single. Time. And that was just a single item order.

What is it with kids these days? Are they even taking their summer job seriously? Yes I know internships and summer jobs pay barely minimum wage but it’s not just about the money. Sadly, this realization is lost on so many young employees.

Summer jobs build up your soft-skills, particularly listening and customer service skills—without which it would be very difficult for you to get a good job after college.

Why are so many young employees poor listeners?
For many teens and young adults, the art of listening and communicating effectively void of their indispensable smart phone is impossible. It’s common for them to “multi-listen,” which means listening to someone talk while their ear buds are plugged in blasting music to their ears.

The popularity of instant messaging apps and social networking sites don’t help either—there’s no need to pay attention to a speaker when there’s no real face to face conversation. Preoccupation and too much stimulation from games and the Internet is also a contributing factor here.

There’s Hope Yet…
I really hope this year’s fresh graduates will pay attention because listening is much more critical. Whatever they put on their resume will be wasted if they don’t care enough to listen. Below is advice that we all use to mentor and coach our younger generation / employees. (And, it’s not a bad refresher for our more seasoned employees!)

How to Improve the Communication Skills of the Tech-Savvy Generation

Choose Someone You Admire and Really Pay Attention to them
Commit yourself to listening to that person for the whole day. Don’t just hear; use all five senses to listen. Observe the speaker’s diction, body language, and tone of voice. Pay attention to what they say as well as what they don’t say.

At the end of the day, try to recall as much of what the person said, including their non-verbal cues. The more you recall, the better your listening has improved. This listening and focus exercise will change bad habits like multi-listening and spacing out in the midst of a conversation.

Love TV? Good, Use it to Listen Well.
Select a news or informative program you love. Listen closely for 10-15 minutes and then turn it off. Can you recall what you heard? This isn’t as easy as the first exercise because there could be multiple speakers in the chosen program. I wouldn’t be surprised if you forgot a few details the first time.

Turn it on again and repeat the whole exercise. This time make eye contact with one of the speakers on the show. This is a safer way to practice your listening and eye contact skills without giving people the creeps.

Listening is an underrated skill for many young adults because they’re too focused on industry-related skills, not knowing that core skills like listening trump almost every skill there is. If nothing else, listening will make it easier for you to keep your summer job. Getting fired at a gig because of poor listening makes for a bad reference.

Five Star Career Services and Riklan Resources offer on-site Customer Service Training programs. Give us a call at 800.540.3609 to discuss your training needs.