Thursday, September 6, 2012

Putting the Customer at the Center of Every Conversation

Image courtesy of 10ch
You know the drill: Put the customer at the center of every conversation and every decision made by your company. How many companies are really doing this?

As I sometimes do, I'm going to put a slightly different twist on "customer at the center of the conversation." It'll still make sense. I promise!

When we think about a conversation, we typically understand that it has two parts: speaking and listening. It's a two-way street. I would actually add a third component: hearing. Yes, we talk; and yes, we say we listen. But do we actually hear what has been said? I think hearing requires a subsequent action or reaction. And in the customer conversation, that part is often missing.

There's a lot of lip service about putting the customer at the center of every conversation, but is that really happening? Not according to this quote from Gartner. While it's been around for a while, I think it still holds true. Why else are we reading about terrible customer experiences on a daily basis.

95% of companies collect customer feedback.  Yet only 10% use the feedback to improve, and only 5% tell customers what they are doing in response to what they heard.

Think about soliciting feedback as a conversation: the company is asking  the customer questions, and the customer is answering them. But is the company really hearing what is being said? And if it is, where's the proof? There are still so many companies that are metrics-driven, whether that metric is revenue, NPS, or stock prices. How do we truly get companies to put that customer conversation at the center of all decisions, design exercises, hiring, and more? And realize that the target score/metric will be achieved as a result?

Recall that I mentioned that hearing requires a subsequent action or reaction. If we truly listened and heard what customers said, we'd take the following actions with their feedback. It would be...
  • Reviewed
  • Analyzed
  • Socialized
  • Operationalized
That is, it would be included in every conversation within the organization.

To then continue the conversation with the customer, the company must say...
  • We received your feedback.
  • We value you and your thoughts about how we're doing.
  • We heard what you are saying.
  • We understand your needs.
  • Here's what we've done with what you've told us.
In order to put the customer at the center of the conversation, companies must hear what customers are saying. When that happens, customers will start talking about the company, too.

“Customers buy for their reasons, not yours.” -Orvel Ray Wilson

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