Have You Listened to Your Customer Today?

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

We live in a day and age where we can instant message  what just happened in our life, twitter about the last play in a ball game, and let our facebook friends know who our new friends are.

I feel like we are spending a lot of time talking at people and we call it communication.  I call a lot of it noise.

I truly believe social media can be a game changer in the future, but when it comes to business, listening to your customer is critical to making sure your company is delivering the kind  of value you hope your customer wants.  Tracking comments about your company on twitter can be revealing but not always accurate.

As an owner, CEO or senior manager I am going to suggest including something radical into your communication strategy.  Pick up the phone and call random customers 1 or 2 times per week.  Do you want to differentiate?  That will do it.  Have marketing give you a list of customers and call one on the way home.  Make it a random list.  If you call 2 per week that is 100 unfiltered personal conversations you will have in a year.

I guarantee you there will be patterns in the feedback you receive that will surprise you.  Your company may be stronger in some areas than you think, weaker in areas you thought was a core strength.

Listen to what the customer says, how they say it and the inflection in their voice.  Google analytics can’t give this to you.

What are you going to say?  How about this…..

Hi, I’m Bob Jones, CEO of Acme Products and I personally wanted to call to thank you for being a customer of our company.  Do you have a moment I could get some feedback.

Great!  I just want to get a little information to help us improve:

  • In your opinion, how are we doing?
  • What is the one thing you have liked most about your experience with us?
  • What is the one area you feel we could improve upon?
  • If we were to add one product or service that would help you, what would that be?
  • If the opportunity arose, would you feel comfortable referring us to someone else?
  • Have you referred us already?
  • Are we easy to communicate with?
  • How could we improve in that area?

The key to all these questions is to:

  1. Listen to what they are saying
  2. Ask relevant follow up questions
  3. Don’t make it an interrogation
  4. And, you want top of mind answers which will most express their true feelings

At the end, thank them, give them your cell phone number and tell them again on behalf of all the employees how much you appreciate them as a customer.

Talk about something going viral. The word will spread about the CEO who personally calls his customers.

The statisticians will complain that the sample is not large enough to do a linear regression. That’s OK.

You will have just gotten much closer to your customer base and learned what’s working and not working in your company.  I have found customers to be brutally honest.

Listening can be a beautiful thing.  Done effectively,  listening will increase sales and cash flow in your company.

If  I can help in this area feel free to contact me.


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