Spend More Time Listening Than Talking

2009 September 7

Note: This is a guest post I wrote for Who’s Your Gladys, a fantastic customer service blog  and book (which is being released on September 15th). You can find the book here on Amazon authored by Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest. Original post is here.

“The more you want to talk, the more you need to listen.” -Warren Bennis

Companies and businesses have a lot to say. They want to do well. They want to sell. They want to grow and succeed. All of which are driven by proactive “talking.” However, the direct action of talking will only help you grow if there is more reactive “listening.”

Those Who Listen

Tyler Gompf’s Tell Us About Us helps companies world wide listen to their customers. After a poor customer service experience, Gompf and his brother came up with a computer program that allows consumers to communicate with companies about customer service for the benefit of the business and the buyer. Today, their large client base ranges from Ben & Jerry’s, Arby’s, Price Choppers, Culligan International and Super Lube Auto Centers.

L.L. Bean listens to their customers and stands out among their competitors with a high quality product and 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

Business Week lists 25 companies where customers come first. Those on the list include Starbucks, Nordstrom, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Southwest Airlines. (You can see the full list here). Each company on the list provides distinctive opportunities for customers to provide them with feedback and their empathy breeds customer contentment.

Need to Listen More? Use the New Online Tools

The web has made it easier than ever to listen to your customers. I work at an online start-up. We provide custom search and stats for bloggers and we monitor our customer’s conversations (live) via Twitter. Our response time is immediate, unless someone tweets in the middle of the night and then we respond first thing in the morning. People are always surprised that we’re “listening,” want to help them, listen for feedback and are there just to say thank you. This is free and represents the little things that count in customer service.

I also recommend useful tools such as UserVoice and GetSatisfaction. More often than not, your customers are talking about your brand, but you don’t know where or there’s a lack of monitoring. These tools and forums generate imperative feedback, a support channel, and communities for products and organizations.

Why Customer Service and Listening Are the Most Important Pieces of Your Business

Gompf knowingly says that companies, “instead of investing their [company’s] budgets into marketing and attracting new customers, are really trying to focus on retaining the ones they have. It’s more important now than ever for smaller operators to have a program where they can listen to the customers and respond.”

Engagement without substance isn’t really listening. That can be detrimental. I don’t want to receive a robotic form letter: “thanks for your suggestion, we will keep it in mind as we improve our services.” Ensure you’re answering a question, using the valuable feedback the customer provided, reaching out directly and treating your customers like people.

Research shows that achieving even a 5% increase in customer loyalty can ultimately contribute from 25% to 125% directly to a business’s bottom line in the long term.

Listen to increase customer loyalty and increase your business’s bottom line. Spend more time listening than talking. You may be surprised at the success and loyalty that comes your way.

What do you think? On a scale from one to ten – where one is extremely poor and ten is outrageously wonderful – how would you rate your company’s listening to customers? What would it take to make it a ten?

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  • Tony Ruiz

    Great post Grace – I totally agree. Listening is the key to business in general. You have to listen to know what direction your customers are going. If you don't know what they want you can't sale and you have no business. I rather have 10 loyal customers vs. 100 customers that are not so loyal. The more you engage/listen the more loyal customers will come.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Tony You're right. The way listening is designed, it means that even if you start with less customers (but they're loyal because you listen) inevitably the numbers will grow. Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://costoflivingblog.com/ Jim

    I agree that excellent customer service can have a positive impact on a firm's bottom line. Like you mentioned, businesses should be sure to take advantage of the two-way communication possibilities that social media afford. They should also keep in mind how easy it is for an unhappy customer to blog or tweet about a bad customer service experience nowadays. The double-edged sword of social media!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Jim Thanks for stopping by. You're very right. Social media can have a very positive and negative affect and it's important company's keep that mind. Many people tend to lash out (publicly) if they've experienced something negative with a brand or company.

  • http://costoflivingblog.com/ Jim

    I agree that excellent customer service can have a positive impact on a firm's bottom line. Like you mentioned, businesses should be sure to take advantage of the two-way communication possibilities that social media afford. They should also keep in mind how easy it is for an unhappy customer to blog or tweet about a bad customer service experience nowadays. The double-edged sword of social media!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Jim Thanks for stopping by. You're very right. Social media can have a very positive and negative affect and it's important company's keep that mind. Many people tend to lash out (publicly) if they've experienced something negative with a brand or company.

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