A neon sign that reads, you are what you listen to, hung on a brick wall - customer listening concept
PHOTO: Unsplash/Mohammad Metri

The key to a successful conversation is knowing how to listen. The advent of technology has changed how people interact with brands. Smartphones, ubiquitous broadband and social media have combined to create new gateways to connect with customers. And yet the customer experience revolution is still in its infancy. Are brands continuously evolving how they listen to their customers? Or are they still using classic listening tools like one-off surveys, popular in the 1990s but outdated today.  

Recent research published by the CMO Council found that 60% of marketers point to inconsistencies with the depth and granularity of their customer insights. A full 36% admit they don’t have the right data to know their consumers or anticipate their needs. Overcoming these challenges means brands must transform how they listen to their customers.

To do this effectively, companies must adopt a technique I call the “Power of &.” On the one hand, we have customer experience management (CXM), i.e. obtain broad feedback, monitor and manage millions of customer experiences as they happen in real time. On the other hand is the ability to go deep and gain insights from highly profiled customers that are strong advocates of your services and products. The ‘Power of &’ is to do both of these together: CXM and deep insights. This frictionless data flow between the two uncovers new sources of value.

Here are three ways to evolve listening and leverage the "power of &."

Listen With the Intent to Act

Great companies listen with the intent to act. They don’t listen with the intent of collecting data for a report. When a customer communicates an issue, keeping this on file is not enough. First, listen. Then figure out how to solve the issue quickly and efficiently.

My car dealership sends me a survey within two days of every service visit. I responded the first time but never again. When I gave them feedback, they broke the cardinal rule of listening: they never acted on my feedback. This one-way feedback capture method (aka the “census” approach) is now antiquated. It tells customers that brands will listen but only if they respond in a standard format and by a prescribed time. Universally, customers prefer brands that act on their feedback. Once they witness brands acting on their feedback, they reward them with their loyalty and their business. In many cases, they become brand promoters on social media.

Listen Deeply

Listening superficially is no longer enough. Great brands listen deeply to interpret and contextualize what they have learned from customers. Brands that uncover customers’ truth have a choice when they see patterns in customer segments and individual behavior. Smart brands couple data analytics with real-time CXM to act in real time on customer experiences. This drives customer loyalty and reduces churn. For instance, great healthcare companies track patient experience before, during and after medical procedures. Their willingness to capture dynamic and progressive patient profiles fuels their ability to act on that feedback in a timely manner. Patients consistently reward this with repeat business and rave reviews.

Listening deeply shows that you care. Something as simple as a text message to a customer asking what is most important during these difficult times can keep them engaged. Today’s customers will not give you all of their feedback up front; they’ll start with a few initial pieces. When they see brands really listening (and acting on their feedback), then they will give more. It is a continuous and ongoing cycle. Make sure you monitor future engagements so you can act quickly and re-engage when necessary.

Listen 24/7

Listening 24/7 begins with empathy. Most consumers engage with brands throughout the day (and night) thanks to social media and mobile technologies. They volunteer feedback via reviews, ratings, rankings, likes and pokes. And they do all of this on their timeline. Customer-centric companies seek consumer feedback 24/7 from all sources — structured and unstructured — and combine these sources to create meaningful consumer profiles.

This is where implementing the ‘Power of &’ through using AI-powered CXM and insights solutions comes into play. AI never needs to sleep. It allows brands to engage with their customers constantly. Today, most customers will not wait until you open your doors to get the customer experience they want. Brands who harness the power of technology to listen 24/7 with the intention to act will be on the forefront of delivering exceptional customer experiences for the future.

Come join me at Alida Activate to hear more about how to transform business through the ‘Power of &.’ Register at https://cvent.me/87odz0.