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Do you survey and listen to customers ad nauseum?

Are you surveying every customer at every interaction or transaction they have with your company?

Do different departments in your company survey the same customers? Do you research a topic (or several topics) to death?

Are you tracking what customers are saying about your company on social media and other venues through which they can provide feedback?  

Are you feeling a little bit of data overload? Yet you still keep asking and listening.

Keep listening… but hold that thought.

Listening to customers is, without a doubt, important to designing a great experience and to business success. Too many companies, though, forget that the “work” doesn’t end with listening. It’s only just begun!

By now, you’re probably familiar with the Gartner statistic: 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. It’s a statistic from years ago, but I believe that it’s still representative; companies are still not using feedback to make improvements, but to check a box that says, “We do that.

Listening has several parts to it; combined, they all embody the ideal VoC closed-loop initiative, which includes listening, analyzing, acting, and communicating. I previously wrote 

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.

When you listen, make sure you hear what is being said before you act or react. When you stop, listen, and really hear, you are better able to understand customers’ (or employees’, as this applies to both) needs and jobs they are trying to do, allowing you to better design for those jobs or to fulfill those needs. You’re also better able to understand their questions or issues and address those or point customers in the right direction to get the issues resolved. In a timely manner.

Listening is critical. Understanding is key. Acting is imperative. 

The problem? There are those companies, those departments, that just keep listening. And listening. And listening. And then don’t ever do anything with what they hear. They just come up with other creative ways to ask their customers questions about the same issues or the same topics. All in the name of listening.

And then, when they can’t listen anymore, they analyze the data to death. How many different ways can we segment and slice it? What other nuggets can we find? This all takes weeks and months – and then the data is old and outdated. So then it’s time to, you guessed it, survey again.

Sound familiar at all?

I’ve seen clients stuck in this vortex. It’s not pretty.

What’s going on? Why can’t you act yet?

  • Are you simply “collecting feedback?”
  • Do you not have enough data?
  • Do you not have the right data?
  • Is the data not actionable?
  • Did you not ask the right questions?
  • Did you ask the wrong audience?
  • For the questions you asked, do you not have owners who are waiting for some results on which to act?
  • Are you avoiding doing the work necessary to make sure the data is acted on?
  • Are you afraid you won’t get resources committed to doing the work?
  • Haven’t you socialized the work you’re doing in order to get commitment from the organization?
  • Do you not have an efficient way to analyze the data?
  • Are you not sure how to analyze? or how to tell the story?
  • Are you not sharing the data and the analysis with key stakeholders so they can do something with it?
  • Do you not know what you’re doing or what you need to do?

At some point, you have to stop listening. And start doing. OK, you’re not really going
to stop listening, but you have to move beyond that and move into the action phase. You know what I mean. When you’ve got listening down, you need to shift your focus on acting. Otherwise, it’s all for nothing.

If you don’t know what you’re doing or what you’re supposed to do, get some help.

Never confuse movement with action. -Ernest Hemingway