5 Ways To (Really) Listen To Customers

by Jeannie Walters

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“Your call is important to us.”

The recorded robot voice doesn’t make us feel very important, does it? Is there anything more frustrating than not being heard??

And yet so many organizations don’t take the time to really listen to their customers. Are you doing the best job you can? It’s easy not to prioritize this. Executives, managers and front-line employees all have jobs to do. There are numbers and quotas to hit, inventory to stock, and reports to write. When a customer mentions something, it’s easy to nod and smile and then move on.

But listening – and then responding – to customers is a vital part of improving the customer experience.

Here’s a short list on ways to do so.

1. Regularly check in on social media.

Even in 2012, there are companies setting up Facebook company pages with the same attitude as buying a billboard. Social media is a channel where customers expect to be heard. If you are using social media as a broadcast tool, you need to wake up and realize that customer expectations are all about getting timely, appropriate responses quickly via these channels. Pay attention, listen up and respond quickly, for goodness sake!

2. Provide ways to track trends in your call center.

If the computer screen the customer service rep is staring at doesn’t have the right box to check, it’s easy to miss what might be important trends. If customers are calling in for support about the same issue, but there is no way to record that, the reps will continue to help those who call in, but the problem won’t be addressed. Listen by tracking.

3. Call random customers.

One of my favorite tools in the toolbox is this simple gesture. Ask the CEO or other executives to call random customers and ask about their experience. Let the customer tell you what matters.

4. Explore roadblocks.

Web analytics can tell you a whole lot about what customers are really seeking. Search trends, online conversions, and, possibly most importantly, where customers jump ship online tells you where frustrations lie. Instead of just looking at numbers as going up or down, watch for subtle ways customers are telling you where to focus.

5. Conduct exit interviews.

Exit interviews are vital for employees, but what about customers? If you’ve lost that big account, it is time to get the facts about WHY you lost them. And those front-line employees need permission to let it all out at the end of their tenure. Ask for brutal honesty – and be prepared for when you get it.

There are so many great ways to listen to your customers. What else?

Photo credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page and x-ray delta one via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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