What is the difference between hearing and listening?
For the sake of this article, lets make sure we’re all on the same page about what the difference is between “hearing” and “listening” before we jump into how it relates to our Customers.
For one, “hearing” is the process, function, or power of perceiving sound specifically, whereas “listening” put simply, refers to give one’s attention to a sound.
Back to our customers, this specifically is what I would like to bring your attention to: “Give one’s attention”. In other words, moving beyond the process of perceiving sound to bringing your attention to what your customers are saying to you.
Right before going straight into the heart of the topic, let’s understand how the action of listening and hearing is put forward with our customers.
Let us talk VoC
The importance of VoC has made its proof, and even more so in the recent decade.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is exactly what you think it is: hearing the voice of your customer and trying to understand it to directly improve a service/product and eventually improve the overall experience of the customer.
You’re probably thinking, “But this isn’t anything new. Businesses have been listening to customers for years,” and yes, you’re right…. But…
Collecting customer feedback has historically been a fundamental part of growing a business. But the Voice of the Customer stresses the importance of “closing the loop” or responding to customers with proof that their feedback has been incorporated into the products and services. More visually, step one you send out a survey to evaluate the experience delivered, step 2 you collect the results and step 3 you take actions based on the feedback of your customers to improve the product/service. This is called “closing the loop”.
But if we quickly go back to our original definition of what the difference is between hearing and listening, are we as a company listening to our customers? And not simply handling the process of perceiving sound and limiting ourselves to only hearing what our customers are saying?
Inevitably the question we want to ask here is, are you truly paying attention to the feedback you are collecting? Analyzing it in the right ways to extract valuable information? Do you move to the step 3?
You should first look at how you collect the data, how you analyze it to understand it and if this data is made available to the right people in the organization. Many times, all the efforts are made, but by a lack of experience, knowledge or organizational structure, information gets stuck and you have only heard, and not listened.
Are you ready to pay attention?
Now that you have understood the gap between the action of hearing and one of listening, do you see the importance of it?
Say, you’ve gone out and put in place such an extensive strategy, probably involving a team or even an entire department in order to send out surveys, NPS, pick up on social media activity, created dedicated marketing campaigns and much more – to check how your product/service is being experienced by your customers. But what happens once you have collected the feedback?
Are you able analyze in ways that it becomes insightful? Are you able to vehiculate this information from the main department that oversees this data to the different departments that will be able to use those insights to make the relevant improvements? Are you able to present the information in a way that will be understood and therefore empowering the rights employees to take action?
Let’s dig deeper into what it truly means to listen when it comes to CX
Listening to customers is not just about hearing about their problems and not only about picking up the phone or answering the ringing bell at your service desk.
Listening to customers is about connecting with them. It involves paying close attention to their needs and understanding how you can help them achieve their goals. You want to make them feel they can rely on you and feel that you will be able to bring a solution to their problems. Even though sometimes the outcome is not the desired one, if the process was supportive and positive, so will the experience.
But how? Let’s break it down to 3 tips:
First of all, let them speak. If you cannot hear what they are saying how will you be able to listen?
Two, show patience. If you are in hurry to speak, you interrupt your customer, and will probably miss out on some important information because you thought you were able to guess the answer before hearing it all. Very quickly your customer will feel that you are not willing to pay attention and their focus will only be on that, instead of hearing what you have to offer.
Number three, you want to engage with your customers on their preferred communication channel. Make your way into their comfort zone if order to have them feel that you are personalizing your approach.
Start with that, and you can be sure to that your customers will love speaking with you – all you have left to do is listen.
Is it linked to a Customer Experience Strategy?
If you have read some of our previous articles, you probably know that we are big advocates of centralization. In other words, nothing should act independently and in silos. On the contrary, we want every single department, stakeholders, and processes to communicate with each other.
Let’s look at a concrete example. Take the #3 tip that we have given in order to listen to our customers: Communicate in the preferred channel of your customers.
Well it goes without saying that in order to know what is the preferred channel it will require that you have initially understood from your customer where they like to interact with you. Once you know, this information becomes valuable – not only to you but to the entire organization.
For example, if you pass this information to your marketing team, they can build persona profiles and identify the channels your customers use most and interact with them through this specific touch point.
You might realize that it could need some upgrading because it is one of the most used communication channels and therefore focusing on this one would make more sense than on a channel that isn’t a popular one – so now your IT team is being involved. And if proven to be successful, your sales team would love to know about this because now they know what your customers need and how you can sell your services better.
All of this to say that by centralizing information and making it available to the right people this will have a big impact on the overall experience of your customers. Customer Experience does not only rely on how well you listen to your customers, but on a multitude of elements. Here, VoC done right is clearly the right foundations in order to know what you should focus on.