Listening to what matters to your customers is more important than ever before. The trick is to “First seek to understand, then to be understood” as Stephen Covey highlighted in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The most important lesson I ever learned is to become an effective problem solver, for whomever is paying me to solve a problem. Here is a problem I encountered recently and how it was solved with listening.
After getting my car repaired at a local automotive shop, I was frustrated because the problem wasn’t fixed.
- My brake pedal went almost to the floor, placing me in a very dangerous situation.
- The shop had installed a new brake master cylinder, costing good money.
- Within the last year, I had replaced the front and rear brakes (at a different shop) so I knew they were OK.
Back at the auto shop in question, I demanded a full refund. The representative listened carefully to the issues, asked clarifying questions to understand what the problem was and reviewed his options.
Then, he assured me we could work things out and that his shop would fix the problem. He said the car probably needed a new brake booster and his shop would take care of it, without additional cost.
And that’s exactly what happened. The representatives at the shop replaced my old brake booster. The next day I called the shop and reported that the problem was resolved. The person on the other end appreciated my telephone call and thanked me for my business. After hanging up, I knew my car had found a good repair shop.
Listen and learn
By really listening to your customers, you will learn information that can help you become their go-to problem solver. When you demonstrate that you care enough to listen to customers’ concerns and are actively engaged in finding effective solutions that produce win-win results, BINGO!
When tasked with solving a problem, I immediately generate a list of questions, which is second nature because of my journalism background. It’s a good idea to ask open-ended questions such as:
- What does success look like in this project?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- What matters to the stakeholders?
- How do you decide which goals must be achieved first?
- What resources are available to support this project?
Remain mentally-ambitious when generating a list of questions. You are basically “Interviewing” the client and guess what? The customer has a lot to say so be prepared to listen.
Take Good Notes
A customer’s initial requirements are the foundation for a long-term business relationship. Use your tablet, cellphone or a notepad to document these important details and immediately upload this profitable data into your digital storage system for future review. Having this highly valuable information at your fingertips will reap rich rewards.
Here are some other ways to listen:
- Take time to have a face-to-face conversation. When was the last time you invited a customer to have coffee? Set aside time on the calendar to meet with select customers at least once a quarter. Use this as an invitation to ask open-ended questions that provide feedback about your products and services and be sure to reward customers who show up, with incentives.
- Engage with Social Mention, a free tool that provides real-time data and analysis. Social Mention tracks blogs, images, videos and more. You get good data such as sentiment, keywords, top users and top hashtags.
- Monitor your website for customer feedback. While this seems obvious, it’s easy to overlook. Is someone minding the “store” by responding promptly online to customer issues? To social media comments?
- Keep an eye on reviews. Have you updated your Yelp, OpenTable and Google+ pages? Are you monitoring customers’ comments on other portals in your industry?
- Avoid the “Look Mom, It’s Shiny” syndrome. Don’t get caught up in all of the just-released tech-gizmos that have nothing to do with your business, your industry or your customers. Instead concentrate on maximizing the tools that allow you to hear what your customers and other stakeholders say about your products and services. That strategy is some bling that will pay off!
Of course, after you listen and understand, it’s time to do whatever is necessary to respond to your customers’ issues. Why not document the process in a new template thereby saving valuable time and money? And, by all means, do share the lessons learned with the team!
By the way, I have a 1994 940 Volvo with 365,500+ miles. And she’s still going strong. I tell her I love her all the time.
Have you been listening to your customers? Share an experience where you listened and responded to your customer.