Oct 222013
 

Heightened connectivity among customers has changed the way they interact with your products. Furthermore, it has changed the amount of information you can collect about your customers. As a result, you have new opportunities — and obligations — to communicate with your customers and make changes to your products and marketing tactics based on this new knowledge.

Let’s consider some strategies to listening — and thus connecting — to your customers in a more positive and useful manner.

Be Thoughtful and Attentive

Your company and your employees will have a hard time learning from customers if they are not interested in them. Teach your employees to be thoughtful about interacting with your customers, as if they were your guests or your friends. Pay attention to customers and look for ways they can teach you.

Converse with Customers

Communicating effectively is about listening as much as talking. Move your company away from just talking to customers and adopt ways to converse with your customers. Surely, some conversations can be purely product-focused, but in the same manner that it’s boring to always discuss work with your friends, it’s good to expand your conversations about other topics. What are some of your customers’ favorite things? What do they hope for and aspire to be? What concerns do they have for their children or their parents? With every conversation, you create a relationship.

And don’t stop there. How about your company? What are its long-term values and plans? What are its guiding principles? What are some of the best practices you follow for being a good neighbor and a good world citizen?

These sorts of conversations open and strengthen channels of communication. The content of the conversations may or may not be of high importance, particularly in the day-to-day management of your products and services. However, they make it easier for you and your customer to talk about the heart of your relationship together — your products and services. Your conversations today will help both of you communicate in the future about things you would otherwise not have thought to tell each other.

Make It Easy for Customers to Converse With You

Be able and ready to listen when your customers decide to speak. This means including feedback contact info or feedback links liberally throughout your products, marketing materials, documentation, and websites. And don’t just label it “Contact Info”; use a friendly call to action: “We’d love to hear from you” or “Please let us know how we’re doing.”

Route customer input quickly to the right part of your company — sales, service, or support. Make sure those departments stay in close, frequent communication with the customer until the issues brought up are resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. Ask the customer if the issue has been resolved; it isn’t done until the customer says it’s done.

Ensure that cross-functional teams regularly review customer input. It’s important that sales, marketing, product development, service, and support all have a cohesive view of what’s coming in from customers and what’s being said back to them. Make sure representative samples regularly make it through the executive levels — all the way to the top.

avatar

Peter Kaminski

Peter Kaminski is a Senior Consultant with Cutter's Agile Product & Project Management practice. He has served as technical cofounder for five Internet startups, including Socialtext, a leading provider of enterprise social software, and Yipes Communications, a pioneering provider of Ethernet WAN services.

Discussion

  One Response to “How to Listen to Your Customers”

  1. avatar

    Peter,

    If your article is entirely focused on the US (and Canada), then sure, you might be able to get away with conversing with your customers about their favourite things, their hopes and aspirations and their children – and even then, I have my doubts. But in just about all of the rest of the world, that would be seen as highly intrusive and crossing the line into a customer’s personal space – a great way to tick off a customer.

    As a supposedly international company, I would expect Cutter to demonstrate more of a world focus – or at least qualify the cultural exceptions. This particular aspect of your article is simply inapplicable outside of the US.

    Michael Gentle

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)