The Dangers of Hijacking a Conversation

The Dangers of Hijacking a Conversation

We put a lot of emphasis on learning how to be a good conversationalist and what to say, but we often don’t learn the opposite: how to not hijack a conversation. It’s a valuable skill and a major component of excellent customer service, which is all about listening, gaining and understanding knowledge of the circumstances, and getting as much information as possible about whatever the speaker’s situation.

Hijacking is a customer service killer. It occurs when an individual customer services professional prioritizes telling over listening and understanding. When you're hijacking, you're not engaging in the conversation. What you’re really saying is, “I want to tell you,” versus “I want to listen to you and take care of your issue.”

 Customer: I would like to place an order for new service.

 Company: I would be happy to help you. How are you today?

 Customer: I’m super busy, have a million things to do, a new boss, and to top it off my kid is home sick today.

 Company: I know what you mean. My phone has been ringing off the hook since 8 am this morning. I have.

                    three kids; one gets sick all the time and brings it home and then the rest of us get sick a week    


The company rep in the above conversation just hijacked the conversation. The customer is waiting to be served, while the customer service rep drones on about how awful their day is.

Conversation can reveal more about your customer.

Instead, use the conversation to find out more about your customer. The more you know about them and their interests, the better you will understand them and be able to provide better service.

So instead of:

  Company: How was your weekend?

  Client: Oh, we went up to the mountains to do a little hiking.

  Company: I love to hike. I did a lot of backpacking in my teens until I hurt my knee. So then I took up mountain    


Use the conversation to discover what makes them tick:

  Company: How was your weekend?

  Client: Oh, we went up to the mountains to do a little hiking.

  Company: That sounds relaxing. Where did you go?

  Client: We went up to Idyllwild, went for a hike, and then enjoyed some Sunday jazz and wine in our favorite

              café up there.

By asking your client more about their trip, you’re getting to understand them better: they like the outdoors but they also enjoy more cultural pursuits. That’s so much more informative than saying, “I’ve been to the mountains too.” Remember, this is a business relationship and your ultimate purpose is to provide your customer the best service. You can achieve this by understanding them better. Your goal is to engage by listening, asking questions to understand, and demonstrating genuine interest.

Engaging in a customer conversation is like reading a good book. It’s someone else’s story, so to find out more, you have to keep reading. If you don’t understand something, you either keep reading or go back and reread a chapter. The same is true with a customer conversation: it’s their story. To find out more, you keep listening. If you need more information, you ask questions to learn about their story with more clarity.

Focus the conversation back on your customer.

Now, if your customer is a good conversationalist, they will probably ask you how your weekend was, too. Be very respectful, and keep it genuine but brief. The customer may very well be just asking out of politeness. This is your opportunity to focus and engage and direct the conversation back to your client.

  Customer: And how was your weekend?

  Company: We went sailing on Saturday and I helped my son with his science fair project on Sunday. Thanks   

                     for asking. Now tell me, how can I help you?

The result of hijacking a conversation can be that customers, colleagues, and even friends avoid interactions. Over time, they will anticipate the difficulty of quickly resolving a need or issue due to the poor communication skills and lack empathy of the provider. Remember, customer service is about serving the customer!