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Nathalie Schooling

CEO at nlighten.
An experienced strategist, trainer and customer experience improvement specialist, Nathalie has more than 25 years of experience in the customer service industry.
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Too few companies have realised that – no matter how revolutionary their product or service – none of it holds any value if it does not speak to the customer. It is for this reason that companies that have perfected the art of listening are also top of mind in the public’s consciousness.

EarCompetition has grown so steep that, by the time a customer has to ask to be heard, it may already be too late. Listening should form part of your business culture. Companies that are seen to listen respond to every query, are always friendly and act on every request. How you deal with customer disappointment underpins your customers’ experience of your brand.

But what are the tools for listening and how can you use them to turn your customer experience around?

1. Limit your limitations

After all, you made them. Too often, established companies become bogged down by their own rules and regulations – disabling their enablers with mounds of paperwork and ceaseless protocol.

Limitations

When you allow the weight of your business to intimidate you, you lose agility, which – in the customer-centric business world – can be a death knell. Your employees need to be empowered to make decisions on their feet. The best way to show your customers how much you value their business is by being able to address their concerns as they happen – or better yet – before they happen.

Allowing your customer-facing employees the freedom to interact with your customers proactively, your brand becomes more personal and tailored to your customers’ needs.

2. Fuse with your frontlines

Frontlines

No one in your business knows your customer better than your customer-facing employees. Day by day, they experience – first hand – every emotion and interaction your product or service elicits. Ask them directly, “What’s working? What’s not? Why?”

The challenge, of course, is breaking through your employees’ sense of self-preservation or avoiding that these get-togethers turn into gripe sessions. To ensure that their accounts are not skewed out of fear of losing out on that promotion or losing their jobs – you need to make sure that employee feedback sessions are seen to be fair game.

Make it clear that they are your eyes and ears, and that their observations matter. Reward them for coming up with solutions rather than more problems. Encourage your team to become ambassadors for your business.

3. Target your technology

For better or for worse – it has become easier than ever for people to share their experiences with others. But in the same vein, it is also easier than ever to gather customer feedback. Frequent surveys – whether internet-based or telephonic – will send a very clear message that you are going to great lengths to tailor your customers’ experiences of your brand to their individual needs.

Technology

Engaging with your customers on social media like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin can be a quick and effective way to gauge their levels of satisfaction – and a great way to keep your ear on the ground for new trends and developments.

Coupled with survey-based research – where you engage with your customers personally through a research company – you will have taken the next step to developing a customer experience strategy. But whether reaching out to your customers in this way annually or monthly – be consistent and make these surveys a part of your company’s routine.

Listening to your customers restores control to your strategy. Get your customers to talk about their experiences and you will have unveiled your greatest strength – what makes your business valuable.

References:

Chris Barling, (no date available), www.marketingdonut.co.uk

Shannon Byrne, 4 September 2014, blog.mention.com

Natalie Clarkson, 11 March 2015, www.virgin.com

Alan Hall, 17 May 2013, www.forbes.com

David Hibbs, 8 August 2013, blogs.oracle.com

J.D. Power IV, 9 April 2014, www.fastcompany.com

meylah.com (no author or date available)