Listening to customers is a constant.
It is becoming harder and harder to listen to customer – because they are wanting to be heard in so many different ways.
Have you heard of the ‘Gold Fish Principle’? It’s not new but it is worth being reminded that many businesses treat customers as fish, that is as if customers had no territorial memory. The business focussed solely on current transactions and gives little thought to customer memory. With no memory of a customer’s past and no regard for the future, and organisations decision are unbalanced.
The question, therefore, becomes “why does a customer choose you instead of one of your competitors?” Is it:
- Strength of customer relationships
“A Customer creates the most value for you when you create the most value for him” according to Don Pepper
This requires an organisation to earn the trust of the customer. The components of trust include credibility, reliability and intimacy ie competence.
“Treat the customer the way you would want to be treated if you were the customer.” Customer advocacy is the best indicator of whether companies are able to achieve cross-sell success to a customer base.
What does it mean to NOT be self-oriented – it means you are customer oriented, that you take the customers point of view – the customer is not interested in your store or product. They are simply interested in having his needs met. So speak the customer’s language.
So how to destroy trust through incompetence.
- Make the customer tell you personal details and preferences over and over again. (Ugh I hate that)
- Treat all customers exactly the same
- When a customer calls IVR ask for account number than when he speaks to a rep. ask for the account number again.
- Offer to sell the customer a product he already bought from you
- Encourage customers to use the web by hiding your phone number
- Give customer contact people no authority to deviate from strict policies
Simply you can not automate great customer service!
“Through 2010, empowering employees will be the quickest route to improving the customer experience.” Ed Thompson, Gartner
What customers say they want from companies:
- 76% Improve the product
- 71% Empower Employees
- 41% Share customer data across departments
- 35% Brand Strength
- 34% 360 Customer database
- 32% Online self-service
- 11% Cross Selling
(Richard Lee and David Mangen survey “Customers say what companies don’t want to hear”)
Listening to customers means your employees must be empowered to make decisions – to surprise and delight customers. That is people making non-routine decisions. Unanticipated situations, creative issues, matters requiring judgement or enthusiasm. How do you inspire employees to ‘delight’ customers? This all requires a high level of employee engagement to achieve customer delight. For employees to use their judgement, creativity, empathy and intuition they must be empowered to act.
An employee must trust their employer – alarmingly 60% of American employees don’t trust their bosses to communicate with them honestly and only 36% of employees believe their leaders ‘act with honesty and integrity.’ 76% o f employees have seen unethical or illegal conduct on the job in the last 12 months – according to Steven Covey in The Speed of Trust
To earn your customers’ trust, first, you have to earn your employees’ trust. Hence corporate culture is more important than ever. A culture based on trust ensures that your people will create value with their decisions
Corporate Culture and Customer Listening:
All the Built to Last companies in Jim Collins book had a strong culture.
“Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organisation’s makeup and success- along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like… I came to see, in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game it is the game.”
Lou Gerstner IBM.
According to the Hays Group, there are four requirements for engagement:
- Confidence in the organisation’s leaders
- Collaboration and collegiality (positivity)
- Development opportunities
- Clear and promising sense of purpose
A productive culture requires a purpose and Listening to customers. (Lifes purpose is not to breathe just as a businesses purpose is not about increasing shareholder value – it is more about why you are in business – which is not about making money)
Does your job feel as if it has to mean? (If so you are in the minority.) 59% of UK employees see no meaningful purpose in their jobs, whilst 90% of employees want to leave their conventional jobs – Patrick Dixon 2006
If your brand mission is to earn and keep the trust of customers then trust is also more likely to characterise other relationships as well.
Employees trusting managers and each other, vendors, stakeholders, investors, clients.
The point is do you know what both your employees and your customers are saying about the brand? If not perhaps it is time to find out.