REALLY Listening To Customers Requires Skill

by Jeannie Walters

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Listening To CustomersIsn’t it so great when you feel really heard? When you feel like the listener is engaged deeply in what you’re saying? Ever have a tense situation diffuse quickly simply because of that feeling? Your customers want that, too.

And yet listening to customers is difficult.

Gathering the right feedback is difficult. Understanding how to take action on that feedback is extremely difficult. And yet it’s a critical step in creating a superior customer experience.

We encourage all our clients to have the leadership listen to customers in the customers’ own words. That can be much more motivating to a CEO than a blip in percentage on a report.

But there are some pretty big challenges to listening and responding to customers.

  • The truth can hurt. Your star employee might be your customer’s worst nightmare. It’s hard to hear the truth.
  • Your processes seem immobile. If complaints happen because of one of those big, daunting, seemingly impossible-to-change processes, it’s easier to ignore what you hear.
  • Customers are often people who don’t want to let you down. They’ve invested in the relationship, too. And if you’ve never asked how they’re doing, how are they supposed to tell you when they’re considering leaving you for good?
  • Asking the right questions is half the battle. But which ones are right?
  • Asking too often can lead to survey fatigue, so then you’ll stop getting anything!
  • Incentivizing employees to achieve more on a survey from customers can lead to behavior akin to begging or bribery from those employees. Not exactly what you want!
  • There are too many people communicating with your brand on social media! How can you keep up?

And then there’s the next step…acting on that feedback you’ve so carefully gathered.

Guess what? More challenges!

  • Who is responsible for those irritations to customers that don’t fit neatly into the org chart?
  • How do you know what to work on first?
  • What if you have limited resources? Where can you invest to make the most impact?
  • How can you ask the right questions next time?
  • What if leadership doesn’t care about that particular issue? What if customers might complain but not defect? Should you invest in fixing those issues?

listening to customers

Listening is really a key part of not just setting up a customer centric strategy but also keeping ahead of your competition. But listening, in all its deceptive simplicity, is hard.

We’ll be exploring this idea throughout the month, along with great examples of those who do it well.

Ready to join us? We of course would love to HEAR what you have to say! It’s a give and take and we can’t wait to learn from you this month, too.

Image Credits: ky_olsen,  quinn.anya via Creative Commons

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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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