Let’s talk about listening..

I write about this a lot – and rightfully so – I believe it is one of the most fundamental things that a business can do to increase sales, customer satisfaction, ROI, TCO, IRR or whatever acronym or metric you want to use. Why do I believe this? Because I have proven it.


Your customers will tell you what they want – but most of the time they won’t make you listen to them. One of the things that I always try to help my clients do is find ways to measure the wants and needs of their customers. Not just the customers you like and maybe have a chummy relationship with, but even those that you might feel are a little more of a pain to deal with. Have you ever given thought to why they might be a pain in the first place? Usually they will tell you.

In his book The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz tells us that Big people monopolize the listening and small people monopolize the talking. In all of my reading, I have found listening to your customer to be one of the most common qualities that all marjor business success stories have in common.

In all this talk about listening, I keep talking about your customers. I’m not talking about just your current customers, although that’s a good start. You should also look into capturing the opinions of customers that decide not to do business with you. Even better, find out what happened to those customers who have done business with you before but don’t anymore. You might think you know the answer already, but ask anyway. I have found that many times people are surprised at what they find!

Another strategy is to talk to the folks that are on the front lines with the customer like your delivery driver, customer service rep or salesperson – find out what they think – get their opinion on how you’re doing as well. Make it anonymous if you want – you are looking for honesty not praise here. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart once flew his aircraft to Mt. Pleasant, Texas and parked it with instructions to the copilot to meet him 100 or so miles down the road. He then flagged down a Wal-Mart semi-truck and rode the rest of the way to “chat with the driver.” When asked about it, he said that it “seemed like so much fun” and that he had learned much.

In business today, you have the ability to collect and process an enormous amount of information. Perhaps I should rephrase that – you have always had the ability to collect the information – but through a strong systems strategy, you have the ability to store, organize, search and act upon the information you collect. Customer feedback is a crucial part of this cycle. Why do you think that just about any time you buy something online these days you get a questionairre in your email a few days later?

Think about it.

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About the Author

Though his chief ambition is to one day control the entire Internet, Jim busies himself in the meantime running our little web development and marketing agency. He's a certified super nerd who ranks coding in old, outdated languages and watching Star Trek reruns just a bit too high on his list of fun things to do. Outside of work, Jim enjoys Hockey (Tampa Bay Lighning, to be specific), more genres of music than most people realize exist, riding his Harley (he calls it "two wheel therapy") and exploring the world through travel.