Many businesses are so reliant on technology that they forget to listen to what their customers want. Instead of face-to-face conversations, they opt for texts and anonymous Internet surveys. In doing so, they miss out on a huge chunk of customer feedback, which is valuable and free advice.
Really listening to customers is so rare today that it’s possible to gain a competitive edge just by doing it. Marty Zwilling offers some tips on how to do it effectively:
- Try not to confuse the customer’s needs with your own. Focus on working out what your customers want, and giving it to them. Win the customer over, build up a meaningful relationship with them, and then you’re in position to talk about the alternatives or up-sell.
- Talk to your customers face-to-face and ask for feedback. Use technology to make personal contact with your customers via the phone or Skype. Don’t use technology to avoid customer contact.
- Control your ego. Sure, your new product line might be out-of-this-world, but it might not be what the customer needs. If the customer isn’t contributing to 60% or more of the conversation, you’re doing too much talking and not enough listening.
- Don’t ask ‘why’. Questions that start with ‘why’ make customers defensive. Always ask open-ended questions that encourage a dialogue.
- Never dismiss a response. Always ask questions in a curious and interested tone, and pause thoughtfully before answering questions. Customers can tell when you can’t wait to give your opinion without really listening to what they’re trying to tell you.
- Don’t stick to a script. Good listeners think on their feet and go where the discussion leads them. Customer feedback forms or scripts are not the best way to figure out your customers’ needs.
- Add a personal touch to your social networking. Use social networks as a platform to show your customers that you are really listening. Post enough authentic and good-humoured feedback to prove that you’re really listening and that you’re a real person.
Listening is the key to any successful relationship. For businesses, it’s now more important than ever because customers have more options than ever. If your customers aren’t convinced that you care, they will find a competitor who does.
In our next post we’ll take a closer look at customer feedback cycles and share some expert advice with you from Kate Tribe, founder & Director of Tribe Research.