The Importance of Customer Listening

curiosity(Note: This post is a reprise of an earlier Customers Rock! blog post, and one that was very popular with my readers. As customer listening has become a common topic recently, I felt it would be helpful to post it again, especially as it discusses NON social media listening. Important to listen via all channels!)

Are we putting up walls between the enterprise and its customers?  Or are we putting up walls dedicated to its customers?

I was in Santa Barbara and had a chance to see how one company shares their customers’ voices.  Citrix Online hosted a tour of their facilities for me.  Besides being very employee-centric (one whole wing of their campus was dog-friendly!), Citrix Online is very customer-centric.

My hostess at Citrix walked me past their Voice of the Customer wall.  On it were three large groupings of many signs, each sign a verbatim quote from a customer.  Each quote was also directly attributed to a customer.  These customer quotes were divided up by Citrix’s main product lines, each grouping a different color.  It was in an area near the employee break room which gives the opportunity for many to stop and read “the writing on the wall.”

I love this idea of keeping customer comments visible to all in the organization.  It was inspiring to see the feedback plastered all over the wall!

Do you listen to your customers enough to get these types of quotes?  Or do you aggregate your customer feedback into several large categories so the true voice is lost?

In one of my previous posts, I asked you what other companies do to listen to their customers.  Kevin Hillstrom of MineThatData shared his experiences with some major apparel companies:

  • At Lands’ End, professionals had to help out in the warehouse, or on the phones, during the holiday season and during bad weather. You learn a lot about customers doing that.
  • At Nordstrom, we had to physically work in stores, or take orders over the phone, during major sale events.
  • At Lands’ End and Nordstrom, we learned a lot about customers, by actually spending some time being close to the customer. Both brands are well known for their appreciation of the customer, both brands require professionals to have some interaction with the customer.

When I worked at HP, we learned about the “Day in the Life of a Customer” concept, which was very similar to ethnographic studies.  HP researchers would go to a company which was a customer of HP’s and video tape their business for a day.  HP would then analyze places where they could help make that customer’s business processes easier.

Lego’s customer service team shares customer feedback from the front lines, support, with the rest of the organization in their regular internal newsletter.  The information helps product teams improve their designs as well as highlights any potential issues.

Some companies tend to hold customer information within their own corporate “silos”.  By this, I mean that departments are not always good at sharing what they know or learn about the customer with other areas of the company.  This kind of knowledge-is-power attitude cannot exist if one wants to create a Customers Rock! company.

Companies like Lands’ End, Nordstrom, HP, Lego, and Citrix get close to their customers and share the verbatim “voice of the customer” within the organization to improve products, processes, and ultimately the customer experience.

Where can you improve your customer listening?  Go find a spot to make your “customer wall”, and start the conversation! (Note: original comments here; worth reading!)

(Photo credit: sazonov)

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12 Responses

  1. “Customer wall” is a great idea, but I also love HP’s approach. it’s something quite unusual but definietely beneficial for both parties.

  2. It’s so easy to lose contact with your actual customers. Sometimes we perceive ‘customers’ as some ominous group of faceless and nameless people. We forget that they are real individuals, and that each individual appreciates quality products and great service. We win our livelihood one person at a time… one loyal customer at a time.

  3. Hello,
    I just came across your blog from Customers Service Carnival and enjoyed it very much. I’m a banquet manager and write a blog about the daily aggravations that go with my job…from cranky chefs to nasty customers and everything in between, so I appreciate your viewpoint on most of your posts. Have a great day!
    So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager

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