Customer Listening: Are You Hearing What Really Matters?

Are customer service reps so busy following scripts that they don’t even listen?

We are living in a world of personalization, where expectations for customer experiences are at an all-time high, and service is no exception; in fact, it’s arguably at the top of the pyramid when it comes to level of importance to your customers. But is everyone rising to the occasion? I can name the companies for which I am a customer that provide outstanding customer service on one hand. So where is the disconnect?

“We are living in a world of personalization, where expectations for customer experiences are at an all-time high, and service is no exception.” – Click to tweet

I read a story on Kate Nasser’s website recently. A customer’s father passed away. She called a credit card company to cancel his account and said to the customer service representative, “my father Pat passed away and I am the Executor of the Estate. I am calling to cancel his account.” The rep replied, “well, I need to talk to Pat,” to which the customer responded, “listen very carefully. He’s DEAD – now if you want to talk to him, you’ll have to figure out how.”

As brands, how well do we listen to what our customers say? Not just when it comes to pulling insights from our data, but how well do we actually listen when we are given the unique opportunity to speak to our customers one-on-one? As Jay Baer says in his book Hug Your Haters, “[h]aters are not your problem. Ignoring them is.”

Unhappy customers have some of the greatest potential to be your biggest advocates, but the other side of the coin, of course, is that they also have the power to tear you down. The solution here boils down to this: when given an opportunity to show any customer you are truly listening to what they are saying, make sure you leave a lasting impression. This will lead to increased retention, higher loyalty, and ultimately more profitability.

“How well do we actually listen when we are given the unique opportunity to speak to our customers one-on-one?” – Click to tweet

Source: Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters

In a recent LinkedIn post, some of my connections commented on how they see the sort of disconnect described above daily. The bottom line is, successful businesses need to become experts when it comes to listening to customers.

“The bottom line is, successful businesses need to become experts when it comes to listening to customers.” – Click to tweet

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when determining what "listening" techniques you should be implementing to find out what your customers think of your brand and want to see change:

1. What are the top 3 things your customers believe they already know about your product or services - good or bad?

Paying attention to negative comments is actually more important than keeping tabs on the good. Listening to frustrated customers gives you the opportunity to identify what is misunderstood or lacking in your product or services, so you can address the issue before it is perceived as factual information to others. Pro tip: Be sure to respond to customer feedback whenever you can.

Wondering where you should be listening for this feedback? This will vary from business to business, but here are a few examples:

  • The “Usual Suspects:” Facebook and Twitter – When you think of social sites that allow for open communication, these platforms likely come to mind. Of course, you can easily see when customers are discussing your product or services on your Facebook page and Twitter feed, and even when you are tagged or mentioned on their personal profiles, but some of the most valuable insights will come from those you cannot blatantly see. Using social tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social, you can select keywords that are important to your business (i.e. your company or product names,) and get alerted of when they are mentioned on someone’s feed. Customers do not always think to tag a company, or more often, they would prefer to criticize without your knowing, but don’t lose out on this valuable feedback by choosing to only operate within your own social pages.

  • Review Sites: Yelp and Google – Take note of the ratings customers go out of their way to leave you on review sites, and really dive into the anecdotes they are leaving. If a customer feels so passionately that they are willing to take time out of their day to leave you feedback, you, too, should go out of your way to listen and reply to what they are saying.

  • Customer Service Logs: Documented Conversations with your Service Reps – There’s a reason you spend so much time and money making sure service interactions are documented. Review calls and emails to see what customers are reaching out to you to say, and make sure you are polishing your reps’ responses as you go.

“Paying attention to negative comments is actually important than keeping tabs on the good.” Click to tweet

2. Where are the first 3 places your customers go for information?

Is it Google? Is it blogs? Forums? Identify these channels and then make sure you are a part of the conversation circulating there. This will do 2 things:

  • Position you as a credible source and the only one who can provide the most accurate information about your offerings.

  • Show that you care enough to communicate with your customers or prospects yourself, rather than letting others do it on your behalf.

3. What are the 3 most important things that your customers, as compared to your competition, might like better when it comes to your products or services?

Your customers will inevitably compare you to your competition, so use that as an opportunity to position yourself above them. Amplify your strengths in your marketing materials and show customers how valuable you are as a unique brand.

You can also use this information to improve your own products or services, working to incorporate the things customers like best about your competitors’ offerings into your own roadmap. Competitive intelligence is key to business success, and your customers can often be great sources of insight into what the competition has to offer.

To understand what your customers are saying in favor of your competition, keep an eye on the following:

  • Social and Review Sites: As mentioned in tip 1, social and review sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Google can offer nuggets of wisdom when it comes to what your customers like about your competition. Some will blatantly say it when giving their feedback, and others might mention it just in passing on their own pages.

  • In Person Interactions: If you have sales reps or account managers who have constant contact with prospects and customers, it is likely they have heard the gamut when it comes to the ways in which your competition has the perceived upper hand. Prospects are judging your products or services through a microscope, ensuring they are making a good decision when it comes to the company they choose to do business with. This means they have done the same with your competition during their evaluation phase and may be willing to divulge some of their findings. On the other hand, current customers that have a trusting relationship with your business’s account reps likely voice what they would like to see change in your offerings based on what they see or hear about your competition on a regular basis. Take these insights to heart and react accordingly.

Remember these 3 tips, and bridge the disconnect between you and your customers for good. Have any other suggestions on customer listening? Let us know in the comments.

#CustomerService #CustomerListening

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