Listen with Authenticity

In his 2015 TED Talk “The Power of Listening”,  best-selling author and expert negotiator William Ury talks about his dream of starting a “listening revolution that can turn this age of communication into an age of listening. . in other words, an age of true communication.”  His point? In order for communication to be complete, incoming messages must not only be received, but also be understood. 

Ury describes the irony that organizations today are working harder and spending more to be “connected” to customers.  After all, we have access to a mind-blowing array of tech enabled data inputs:  NPS and Voice of Customer surveys, social media feeds, website and speech analytics.   But, the reality is that these sizable investments in communication tools do not, by themselves, translate into successful listening. Why?  Because true listening requires an intentional effort to quiet our distractions, assumptions and biases before we can truly understand the perspectives of our customers.   

Additionally, given inherent limitations in organizational structures, customer messages, or “inputs”, land a variety of functional locations with no venue for the information to be synthesized and reflected upon.  When you add in pressures of departmental performance execution, budget and profitability, the idea of truly listening to customers who interact with your team/product/service may actually feel like a threat, rather than something to be embraced.

Consider the following 3 tips in how your organization could revolutionize how it listens to customers:

  • Be intentional.   Create a corporate listening team that is comprised of cross-functional and diverse leaders.  Set aside consistent time and space for participants to turn off their distractionary devices and devote themselves to a shared purpose of listening to the voices of their customers. 
  • Have courage to hear the truth. When our sense of security is dependent on only hearing messages that affirm our own assumptions and beliefs, we may overlook important messages that could significantly help evolve our products and services.   Leaders should give their teams permission to hear the true voice of the customer, even when it dissents with popular opinion.
  • Incorporate diverse inputs.  Avoid the belief that customer surveys and reviews are the only way to hear the voice of the customer.   Customers are giving us unsolicited feedback constantly, through the channels and means that already exist within our organizations.  Examples include customer questions submitted online, unsolicited comments made in interactions with your call centers, and their purchase and utilization behavior.  

Thank you for listening.  Now it’s my turn.   What are the ways your organization is revolutionizing how it listens to customers?

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