Are You Really Listening to Your Customers? 7 Important Areas……

Posted by: in Customer Experience on January 17, 2010

Yep…uh huh…right….click, click, click….no, I’m listening…seriously, I’m listening….click, click, click…what? Can you say that again?

Sound familiar? It’s the cadence of corporate life these days……we are half-listening, which in my view, is not listening at all.

Strategic listening is becoming a competitive advantage for companies. And for those who truly listen, they are realizing that it is not as simple as it sounds. When done well, it becomes incredibly powerful – it is the cornerstone of your online strategy.

The reason is that strategic listening involves a number of variables. It’s the nuances of listening that lead to the breakthroughs. Conversations provide clues that three-ring binders never could compete with. Leaders talk about where conversations occur, who has influence and which words are most powerful. They are developing their own knowledge base that only gets stronger with time. Followers are still talking in conference rooms looking at slides with pie charts and using group-think to debate what may be happening.

It’s time to look at the “walk” as well as the “talk” in listening.

Here are 7 important areas in strategic listening.

#1 – Location, Location, Location – remember the old adage that the three most important factors in buying a home are location, location and location? Same with conversations. Know where your customers hang.

#2 – Share of Conversation – throw away the slides showing positive, negative and neutral comments. When data makes you guess what is happening, you don’t have data, you have just “collected noise”. Leaders know exactly who is driving share of conversation for their brand….with precision….they know what is happening behind the pie charts, graphs and tables…..they don’t guess.

#3 – Customer Expressions of Faith & Concern – they are equally important. When a customer takes time to tell you what they think, either via a rating and review or a complaint or by answering a question, they are giving you a view into their way of thinking. What do your most active customers actually care about and how is it trending? Is your knowledge real-time or is it based on data that is months old? Do you know exactly?

#4 – Ideas – customers like to do three things…share ideas, share product knowledge and provide each other with solutions to problems. Customers can’t wait to provide you with their best intellectual capital. All you have to do is grant permission by asking them in an idea site or on the phone when they call technical support. Let your customers loose and watch what happens.

#5 – The New Language – leaders know the exact words their customers use when they are talking online. They don’t think in terms of keyword dictionary spreadsheets. They think about the language of the customer. Search is about customers using their language to find what they want. Too often, our search strategies actually don’t reflect the prioritization of the customer’s words of choice. Pretty amazing to me.

#6 – What’s Bothering Me – many companies hope to avoid calls with complaints, but, in reality, you can learn so much. Imperfect companies improve immensely by listening, learning and sharing what they are being told…..right away. And we all know there are no perfect companies..yet.

#7 – How Customers Learn – now that you are listening to your customers, you develop an understanding about how they like to learn. For example, maybe it really does make sense to start telling your story via video. Or a certain group of customers would prefer to only receive information via their smart phone. Do you know how they like to learn? Or how you want them to learn?

When you become a strategic listener, the world opens up along with opportunities for your brands. What was that? Huh? Click, click, click…just a second….yep, be there in a minute…huh?

Push out the noise in your corporate life… never was helpful to begin with……make the customer your learning center every day. Just make it happen….

Enjoy, Bob

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

6 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the great post. Sounds so simple to listen, but we rarely do it fully – both with customers and each other in general.

  2. Great post, Bob – good to see that someone gets the importance of understanding the who, what, where, when, why and with what impact of social media insight for action.
    Jon Moody
    Market Engineering
    skype: jmoody-asomo
    Twitter: Jonnybgood68
    ASOMO Service
    Lemon Studios 85 Clerkenwell Road
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  3. Thanks Maeve and Jon, I’m listening….:) The reality is that listening is an emerging discipline that many feel they do well, but then realize they don’t as they dive in. All the best, Bob

  4. Great post, Bob. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    What about dialogue? Listening, without engagement would be fruitless. I am sure you will agree 🙂
    Look forward to joining in on the conversation.

  5. I do agree that listening that leads to targeted engagement is optimal. I am also seeing how powerful it is to understand one’s online world….if you have great insights….the insights have value beyond the engagement in terms of where we may see opps or issues for a brand…it may impact the editorial plan for online content…and much more. When we listen we learn. But do agree that action or engagement matters…..
    All the best, Bob

  6. I agree, totally!! In my mind, we will be forced to truly listen, think, and then engage with the real time, location intelligent,mobile-web enabled, and more importantly (empowered)consumer/customer of tomorrow.
    Thanks for some great thoughts.

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