My grandmother used to tell me that if I was talking, I wasn’t learning anything.
That’s sage advice because much of what is wrong with service and leadership have to do with a lack of listening to understand. That typically is applied to instances when we are having a face to face conversation with someone – but it is also relevant when we collect information and sentiment from customers.
Often this is referred to as a Listening Post. This comes from the standard definition of “a location or process for intercepting electronic communications.” This has been shifted into the customer service universe to mean touch points or mechanisms by which you can hear and communicate with your customers.
This is important because without the knowledge you can collect from your customers, you’ll never improve. If you can’t hear them, you can’t communicate with them and you’ll never improve service or sustain a dialogue.
The most successful organizations create raving fans who are not only loyal, but engaged consumers. They participate in the conversation, give actionable feedback, and serve as brand advocates.
This can’t happen if you don’t pay close attention to your customers and what they are saying.
Let’s talk about the channels, or listening posts, though which you can hear your customers:
This could be your VOC program, comment cards, or surveys. These are easily analyzed for themes but may not have a great deal of verbatim feedback.
This could be the most powerful way to hear customers. This could be casual conversations or more formal scripted research engagements. The power here is the face to face communication and the ability to ask follow up questions. You also can read body language and facial cues as well.
Your team hears everything – and far more than leaders ever will. They have the closest point of contact to customers and may hear both direct and indirect conversations. Guests will share complaints with them live and they will also have indirect conversations with others that your team will hear. This feedback is valuable because it may never land in a survey. So encouraging your team to share this feedback with you is key to fully understanding customers’ unmet needs or wants.
Whether they snap it, tweet it, post it, or email it, your customers will be sure their voices are heard digitally. Be sure that you are watching the right feeds and hashtags as well as responding back quickly. And remember, take conversations offline as quickly as possible.
If you have a business network, you may hear things about your business second hand from others. These are normally pretty vague, but shouldn’t be ignored. You shouldn’t knee-jerk to these, but rather use them as a starting point to investigate further.
Finally, this isn’t exactly a listening post, but it is a way to look at things from your guest’s point of view. Take the time to work in your business and directly serve guests on a regular basis. This is enlightening in so many ways, but most notably to experience hassles your team may be experiencing and to see possibilities to enhance the customer experience.
The key is to then do something with this data. There are many organizations out there that collect data and feedback but never put it to work. The information alone isn’t valuable – it is your reaction and grit to improve that will separate you.
Never forget that anyone can collect the information, but it takes leadership and intuition to turn it into success.
Now you are probably asking yourself – the title said Guests would tell you almost everything you needed to know. So here’s the final piece of the puzzle:
You have to keep one eye on the competition and the future. That is to say that there is a whole universe of innovation out there and hungry upstarts on every corner with the next “thing.” So don’t get fixated on just your own internal story; keep abreast of industry trends, the competitive landscape, and your dreams for what may come next.
When you combine the insights of your customers with the creativity of what’s next, you have a powerful engine for success.
Together we serve.
Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Service Leader | Author | Speaker
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