Mastering the art of “active listening” for customer insight

    Great customer surveys enable brands and organisations to get close to their customers. We all love to be listened to and understood - it's human nature! When I feel listened to I engage more, and when I engage more I'm in a better place to transact.

    It's more than the appearance of engagement

    But surveys that exist only for an organisation to APPEAR to be 'doing surveys' is a big mistake. I'm talking about surveys that managers organise because their KPIs demand them, as opposed to a heart and mind approach from passionate customer-focused teams. Surveys just for the sake of surveys are a big mistake.

    And here's why...

    Up front, at first, all will be well and your customers - or potential customers might feel you care and are interested in their views. However, once the total lack of true engagement is felt the organisation will suffer, and quickly.

    A story of survey failure

    I will never forget how it felt to respond to not one but two consecutive surveys following a purchase. I worked through the questions and gave my honest and helpful opinions of the product, including my contact details and a specific relatively minor complaint which remained unresolved. I felt that I had downloaded my frustrations and was pleased to be helping a major brand to learn and improve. By giving my time and attention I knew I was doing my bit for myself and others who might be experiencing the same fixable niggles with the product.

    However, as the days became weeks became months I knew I had been ignored. It was worse than if I had never submitted my detailed survey responses. And you know what that now means?... I don't buy their products anymore.

    We're all just to savvy and have a seriously loud voice out there. Gone are the days when we might moan to 12 friends and colleagues about a bad experience. Now we can tweet and Facebook (other social networks are equally available!) and thousands see it.

    It's a sin to ask but not listen

    No credible organisation can ask for feedback and ignore the response. To solicit your customer's views with no intention of using the valuable feedback is a sin. An incredible waste of time and resources for both the organisation and the customer.

    Don't destroy the very relationships that are your organisation's life's blood. Plan to use your feedback and show your customers that you're listening. We all want to feel listened to and understood.

    Key: Make plans to listen not just to hear

    Let's start to put as much thought into how we will use the information as we put into creating the survey. In a previous blog I encouraged people to 'start at the end'. In other words to think about what you wanted to know from your customers and how you want to receive the insights so that you can do something! Then ask only the questions that you're actually going to use! No more than that.

    At CRT we find that just three questions can provide amazing levels of insight, especially when the final question is what we call the 'magic question' - an open ended question simply asking "is there anything else you would like to tell us today?" This simple question solicits powerful free form responses from the loyal, annoyed, lukewarm or the 'just ok thanks' respondents. We then provide this insight in the best way for our clients to be able to use it – they choose the format.

    So in 2017 be sure to make plans to actively listen to your customers – and to demonstrate you really care.


    Please don't hesitate to get in touch if we can help with your customer experience planning.

    Simon Rowland

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    Written by Simon Rowland

    Simon is the CEO of ViewPoint. Find out more about Simon Rowland.

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