We listen to our customers

5 Ways to Listen to Customers (No Survey Required)

Take a moment to consider all of the businesses that have recently asked you to complete a survey.

I was taken aback when my kids’ swim school surveyed me after just one lesson. Truly, it’s a go-to customer feedback method for so many companies. But they shouldn’t be the only way we listen to customers.

Yes, surveys can be powerful tools for listening to our customers, especially when we ask for their feedback at the right point in the customer journey. For example, at NumberBarn we send a satisfaction survey at the end of each customer interaction. And we often take the time to celebrate positive feedback and work to improve based on any constructive or negative feedback. 

But we’re also mindful of the fact that only about 20% of our customers actually pause to complete a survey.

What about the other 80% who don’t respond?

Can we assume that each of those customers loves NumberBarn and says nice things about us to their friends and family? Or are we running the risk of losing some customers and never knowing the reason(s) why?

Talk about a serious missed opportunity. That’s why, in the name of truly listening to our customers, we have to branch out beyond surveys. The reality is that there are many, many different ways to listen to our customers.

In this article, I want to highlight five methods that I’ve found particularly impactful to help you listen to your customers.

1. Dive into your customer interactions to hear your customers

Not sure where to begin when it comes to listening to customers? Look no further than customer support.

Your customers reach out to you all day, every day for help — and so often the wealth of insight packed into these interactions doesn’t make it out of the customer support team or contact center to the folks in the organization who can fix bugs and make product improvements.

Action Step: Challenge yourself to listen to ten calls or read through ten customer support chats or emails. I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience and you’ll find yourself wanting to learn more.

2. Listen to customers by asking your customer support team

At a previous job, I managed an offsite, outsourced customer service team. During my quarterly visits to the contact center, one of my favorite activities was to ask them to share a handful of issues causing customers (and support team members) the most frustration.

I’d then sit back and take pages of notes of customer issues that needed to be fixed and ways we could equip our own team to take better care of customers.

Action Step: Pull individuals or small groups from your customer support team into a meeting and ask them to share 3-5 frustrations customers face. Then close your mouth, open your ears, and take notes.

3. Listen to your customers by talking to your customers

Who says that only the customer support team is allowed to interact with customers?

Sure, they are the ones equipped to support customers, but there’s no better way to empathize with someone’s situation than to speak with them directly. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that more than once a member of my team voiced concern and I wasn’t actually compelled to act until I spoke with the customer and heard it firsthand.

Action Step: Talk to at least one customer today. This could happen in many ways. Here are some ideas:

  • Listen in on a customer service call with a member of your frontline team.
  • Call a dissatisfied customer to find out how you can make their issue right or simply to thank them for their feedback and promise improvement.
  • Call a satisfied customer and thank them for their loyalty and for their kind words.
  • Or if you’re feeling really brave, try supporting customers for a day.

4. Pinpoint common customer issues and trends

Tools like text or speech analytics can be immensely helpful in spotting recurring customer issues. And as you listen to customer feedback, it’s important to understand how frequently certain issues arise in order to prioritize them for upper management.

In full disclosure, we don’t actually use text or speech analytics at NumberBarn. But, we do religiously tag our tickets and also leverage the searchability in our ticketing system so that we can quickly drill down into our most common issues.

Action Step: Whether the solution is high tech or low tech, take the time to determine your top ten most common issues.

5. Pay attention to social media and review sites

It’s not a question of whether or not your customers are talking about you on social media and review sites. They are! The real question is whether or not you’re listening to and interacting with them.

Keep in mind that these are both public forums so everyone (that includes former, current, and potential customers) is watching to see if and how you respond to customer feedback. It’s not optional whether or not you respond.

Action Step: Actively monitor and respond intelligently to all customer comment activity on social media and review sites.

If you’re looking for more ways to listen to customers, take a look at this article I wrote on the CXAccelerator blog.

Finally, it’s essential that we are constantly listening to our customers in a variety of ways — but that’s just the first step. It’s also critical to do something with that insight. Our focus should always be on consistently improving our product, eliminating bugs, and empowering customers to self-solve more of their issues. This is a fantastic recipe for customer experience improvement.

If you have any questions or want to explore this topic further, feel free to leave a comment. Or, better yet, reach out on Facebook or Twitter and see if we respond.

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Written by

Jeremy Watkin

Jeremy Watkin is Director of Customer Support and Experience at NumberBarn. Not only does he love serving customers, but he's a prolific writer and speaker on the topic and has been recognized numerous times for his thought leadership. Be sure to connect with him on Twitter. His handle is @jtwatkin.

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