Are You Listening?

Insight came from a late night game of “Trivial Pursuit Goes to the Movies.”  It was being played by a group of business leaders after drinks and dinner at the two-day retreat we were facilitating.  The object of the game was for one team to read a famous movie line and for the opposing team to name the movie in which it was spoken and the actor who said it.  The one with the most answers at the end of the deck would be the winner.

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” one team member read from the card.  Before anyone on the other team could give the correct answer (Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke), someone on that team shouted, “Revenge of the Customers!”  It was a humorous response.  And very prophetic!  Consider the following facts:

  • While 95 percent of firms surveyed indicate they collect customer information, only 10 percent actually “deploy” a change or policy based on customer feedback.  And, only 5 percent of firms tell customers that they used their feedback.
  • When thousands of customers were asked if organizations listened, 39 percent indicated companies do not listen to or act on customer feedback. Yet, 87 percent of employees and executives believed “we listen.”
  • Doctors, on average, after asking a patient the initial symptom-describing question, interrupt that patient within the first 18 seconds of the answer.

Lots of talking, not much communicating!  Ever had a maitre d’, host, waiter, or waitress saunter up to your table and ask the ubiquitous, “How’s everything?” And even though you were unimpressed by the food, underwhelmed by the service, and annoyed by the delays, you said, “Fine.”  Congratulations! You have participated in one of the most meaningless efforts in modern business––useless feedback solicitation with no real pursuit of understanding.

What the restaurant learned from your “Fine” is not only irrelevant; it’s probably not true!  The frontline employee thinks he or she has heard an actual evaluation of the meal and the service.  The customer thinks he’s just given a generic greeting…sort of the other side of “Good morning, how are you?”  And, management thinks they have another happy customer.

But, what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.  When customers with something important to say don’t get heard, they get even more vocal—and louder.  And when that fails, they talk with someone who will listen––their friends.  Suddenly websites proliferate with customer reviews and Facebook accounts exceed 500 million people, each with an average of 130 friends.  What are you doing to help your customers know (for sure) that you are listening?  What evidence do your customers have that their two cents worth matters?



About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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One Response to Are You Listening?

  1. Having inline with this kind of stuffs really needs a serious listening. It help us to really know things and give us a chance to perform better and greater. Once you listened really well, you’ll know what the customers really want.

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