“I use this amazing music software. They know exactly what musicians need!”
“I want a doctor who will listen to me and let me be an advocate for my daughter.”
“I love my hair stylist. He really listens to what I want. He doesn’t just do whatever he thinks is trendy.”
In the last few weeks, these are actual snippets of real conversations that I had with people talking about the products and services they buy and use.
Notice that the common thread here is that people are talking about how much they love the fact that they feel listened to. It is such a simple idea, it is a wonder that more companies don’t do it.
Think about it. When was the last time you spoke with any company and you felt like they listened to what you had to say? I would hazard a guess that your default expectation was that you would be ignored. We expect to be put on hold. We expect to get emails from “no-reply” addresses. We expect to sit around in endless tech support loops. We expect telemarketers to doggedly and resolutely go through their pitch, regardless of anything we say.
Can you remember the last time you felt listened to by a business? If it has ever happened at all, I’m guessing that you remember it quite vividly since it is such a rare occurrence. That time the bank teller said right away “no problem ma’am, we’ll get that fixed”. The time you used some software that seemed to know exactly what you needed. That time you paid for parking at one of those pay parking kiosks and didn’t want to kick it in from frustration.
I will let you in on my dirty little professional secret.
So much of what I do in my consulting practice is really just a fancy term for “listening”.
Getting to know your customers so that you know what they need before they do – that comes from listening. If you want to know your customers’ problems better than they know it themselves, you can’t do that if you are focused on “email blasts”. You need to stop blasting and let them talk to you. You can call it “Market Research” or “Voice of Customer” or “Customer Experience Strategy” but in the end, it all comes down to different techniques and strategies of listening.
This is a simple concept, but like many simple concepts, it is not easy to do. If you don’t believe me, try this simple test.
The next time you are at a party with lots of new people, or at one of those networking events we all dread, try to actively learn more about the person you are talking to than to get them to learn about you. You will find that it is surprisingly difficult to turn off the “OK now it’s my turn to talk” part of your brain.
In business, the urge to do all the talking is amplified. We want to rise above the noise by talking more, or talking more loudly, or listing all our amazing features (the more the better!). But pay attention to who YOU pay attention to the most. Is it the company who talks the loudest and the most often, or is it the company that stopped talking and listened to you?
The best news of all? The bar for listening to customers is incredibly low.
Talk less, listen more. Then watch how it makes a difference.