Listen to Your Customers or Risk Losing Them Forever

23rd March 2017Change Management

Do you listen to your customers?

Does their voice carry into the upper echelons of your business?

Do you take action to make a positive difference?

The answers to all of the above should be a resounding “yes”.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”

Bill Gates

As we all know, customers are the lifeblood of any business. Clearly, if we are not really listening to them, we risk losing them forever.

Despite best intentions, the reality for many businesses is that we fail to listen intently enough.

Or, if we have genuinely listened, we then neglect to take meaningful corrective action to better serve our unhappy customers.

Why don’t businesses listen hard enough?

In my experience, there are 3 main reasons:

1. Pretending to listen but not truly hearing the customer’s voice because of preconceived ideas or prejudice

You reason that you are the expert on your product, you deal with happy customers all of the time and you already know what customers want.

That may be true most of the time. However, all new customer feedback – especially negative experience – is important to enable you to further improve your existing products and services.

If your customers care enough to take the time to let you know how they feel, you had better take the time to really listen to them.

2. Believing that customers who provide negative feedback are complainers or unreasonable people with unrealistic expectations

In this digital age, it is true that customers are becoming more demanding and expecting ever quicker responses and resolutions.

Your business has to move with the times or be left behind. Expectations have changed and so must you.

3. Refusing to listen to bad news and reviews because this contradicts what most of your customers seem to be saying

Perhaps your business has a trophy cabinet full of gleaming awards for your products and services? Moreover, your senior management proudly “wears the customer’s shoes”.

Naturally, you don’t want to upset the apple cart or be a dissenting voice. So, you might be tempted to ignore some negative customer sentiment.

The full picture does not emerge and the voices of your unhappy customers do not reach the top of your organisation.

Fortunately, fewer businesses are committing these sins of not listening.

But sadly, too many are still failing their customers by not taking serious action to change in the light of poor customer experience.

Why don’t companies act on what their unhappy customers are telling them?

Once again, I believe there are 3 reasons:

1. Believing that you are “market leaders” or “best in class” 

How often do you hear senior managers proudly state things like?

“In the latest customer satisfaction survey, 95% of our customers would use us again”

That’s great! But what about the 5% who won’t?

What are they saying about your brand to their friends and family?

What are you doing to learn from their negative experiences and put them right so that you retain their custom?

2. Hiding behind processes and systems and focussing on what can’t be done

Maybe you are aware that the customer journey is dysfunctional but believe that it costs too much to change your set-up. That is until it is too late and increasing numbers of your customers are already voting with their feet.

3. Saying you can’t afford to change right now

Yes, you acknowledge that some of your customers may be unhappy.

You’ve taken the time to listen to them and to understand why,. But right now the solutions seem to be cost prohibitive.

But wait…not all changes require serious money to implement.

A recent SDL survey shows that over half of all failings are down to human error.

Many of these can be fixed by relatively low-cost initiatives such as training, reorganisation or better communication.

Losing customers ultimately costs more than investing in improving your own front line teams.

So, for businesses in today’s hyper-competitive world, it really is a question of:

Listen or lose – You choose

If you enjoyed this blog why not read about how hunting down hidden complaints can seriously improve customer loyalty and long-term revenue generation?