Are You REALLY Listening To Your Customers?

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Are You REALLY Listening To Your Customers?

Are you listening to your customers? I mean REALLY listening? No, I don’t mean that bland, generic annual survey you do – and then quickly ignore. I mean have you truly built customer-listening into your organization’s way of doing business?

When was the last time you did something different based on a customer suggestion? When was the last time someone in your organization recognized a problem and made it right based on a casual comment or a look? When was the last time you talked directly to a customer?

With all the talk in recent years about customer service, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, why are so many businesses still oblivious to what customers really think and feel?

A while back I had a somewhat disappointing stay at a hotel while on a business trip. Nothing huge, just the small inconveniences – some minor problem with the sink, Internet access that never worked right, etc. When I checked out, the clerk asked how my stay was. My response (like most of you would do) was that is was “okay”. And what I expected was “OK, have a nice day.” from the clerk. Instead what I got was “Just OK? Well that’s not good enough. What was really wrong?”. I told him of the inconveniences and he apologized, offered me a free night on my next stay, and said asked for “another shot” at doing a better job. I was impressed – and I stayed there on all my subsequent trips to that city. They got “another shot”. But without this attentive employee who noticed and reacted, it probably would not have happened.

Businesses need to be better about reading customer attitudes in the moment, at the point of contact…immediately. And then reacting. And you know what? It’s not that hard to do. Some pointers on getting closer to your customers:

  • Teach ALL your employees how to recognize customer dissatisfaction. They should be trained to read facial expressions and body language. I don’t mean in some creepy, super-spy, psychologist kind of way; just simply have them be aware.
  • Give employees enough leeway to react in a way that will impress customers – on the spot, without checking with anyone.
  • Ditch the annual survey. Or maybe just ditch the one you’ve been using. Admit it. For most organizations it really isn’t a useful tool. Focus it on more strategic, high-level issues. For most issues, you need more frequent input anyway. Focus your attention on getting more immediate feedback.
  • Get up close and personal with your customers. And I mean together…you know…in one room. Too many companies we have seen are just so hesitant to sit down face-to-face with customers and talk openly about their company, their products and product direction, customer needs, etc. And I just don’t get why? You will be amazed at (1) how willing customers are to talk with you and (2) how much you can learn that you won’t learn any other way.
  • Watch how customers actually use your product. I guess this is somewhat related to the above point. There’s just tons to learn by simply observing.
  • Think beyond just those people you call your “customer service department”. EVERYONE is involved in customer service. If you think the confusing invoices you send or the delivery truck driver with the attitude or that stupid, confusing, impersonal “on-hold” phone system, or the unresponded-to emails don’t impact how the world sees your brand, you are just living in a dream world.

So, c’mon be honest. Are you REALLY listening to your customers? Are you REALLY hearing them? Are you digesting what they are saying? Are you acting on it? If not, now’s the time!


I LOVE to help leaders improve and businesses grow!

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