Some businesses go through the motions of responding to customer inquiries and complaints rather than genuinely hearing what these customers have to say. They reply with a basic (sometimes boilerplate) automated response or provide an answer to the question they wish the customer was asking–rather than what the customer really wanted to know. If this trend persists long enough, it’s not surprising when customers gradually fall away and begin seeking better service elsewhere.
To assess how well you’re currently listening to your customers, ask yourself whether these statements are an accurate representation of your business:
Your customers get the answers they want the first time around.
If they’re doing their job correctly, your customer service representatives are making sure an inquiry is addressed with a customer’s first (and hopefully only) call. Nothing rankles customers more than having to call back repeatedly because your employees weren’t really listening the first time they called.
Your customer service representatives are meeting customer needs.
By listening closely to a customer’s inquiries, your employees are putting them together with the products or services that meet their needs. These service representatives are not compelled by company policy to focus instead on up- or cross-selling at a time when a customer has a specific request.
You’re seeing consistent repeat business.
A customer who feels heard by your company is likely to bring his or her business back to you time and again. (Even better, they’re more likely to refer your business to their family and friends.) If, by contrast, you’re seeing less and less repeat business, there could be a problem with the quality of your employee-customer transactions. It’s worth investigating to determine the source of such a problem.
Thanks to social media and other online venues, there are plenty of other ways to listen to what your customers are saying. One great starting point is setting up a Google Alert. With this tool, you’re alerted each time your business name is mentioned on the Internet. (Consider also setting up a Google Alert for mentions of your competitors.)
Are you regularly monitoring popular business directories and review sites? Customers post comments, complaints and occasional tirades on any number of such sites, including Yelp, Google+ Local, Yahoo Local Listings, etc. Check in on a regular basis and promptly respond to what customers are saying about your business.
If the comment is enthusiastic and favorable, look for ways to contact the customer (via the review site, an email message or phone call) and offer a discount or incentive to further patronize your business. If you come across an unhappy customer, offer a reply that addresses the specific complaint and resolve the issue as soon as possible. Not only will you pacify an otherwise irate customer, others viewing the online exchange will be impressed by the efforts you take to make good on a bad situation.
Make It Easy for Your Customers
Surveys are a proven method for listening to your customers. Invite people who have recently purchased your product to take part in an email or text poll, gauging their level of satisfaction both with the product itself and the customer service they received.
Also, be sure the “Contact Us” form on your website is fully functioning and user-friendly. People don’t want to jump through hoops in order to reach out to your business. Consider changing the name of this function to something a bit more informal, like “We’d like to hear from you” or “Let us know what you think.” This simple change in language may significantly increase your response rate.
Truly listening to your customers demonstrates a commitment to providing them with the products and services they want and need. It’s a critically important component of enduring brand loyalty, which is why it’s well worth the extra time and effort needed to hear what your customers are saying.