How to Inspire Customer Happiness through Great Listening Skills
In my role as a Customer Success professional, I’m always on the hunt for new suggestions and tools to keep my approach fresh, and my people happy. As a result, my inbox, Twitter feed, and Linkedin discussion boards are frequently flooded with helpful strategies, tools, and tips to enhance my customer communication management to secure stronger relationships.
I support a diverse portfolio of accounts ranging from 2 person startups through Fortune 100 corporations, and I have found that one specific strategy works wonders throughout them all; Listening, the simple skill taught to us in Pre-School or earlier is too-often overlooked and forgotten. The same way that the greatest friends are the best listeners, implementing a conscious focus on listening into my Customer Success practices has created a lasting and rewarding impact with my customer relationships.
In my day-to-day, I break up the practice of listening into three distinct forms:
1) The Empathetic Sounding Board
2) The Real-time Feedback Loop
3) The Silent Listener
These three listener personas occupy distinct spaces, and provide a unique value-add to both my relationships as well as to my organization as a whole.
The Empathetic Sounding Board: Listen and empathize before even solving the problem.
Here’s the truth – regardless of how amazing your product is, and/or how savvy those supporting it are, there will come a day (or days) where something just isn’t working as designed.
When this happens, keep in mind that the trickle down effect is that you’ve created more work for your customer or even worse, you’ve disrupted their customer-facing services.
Allow them to be peeved. Listen to their grievances and validate their feelings – genuinely.
Before you interrupt them with how the issue will be resolved, let them finish.
In most cases, they didn’t call you expecting you to click a magic button and correct the problem on the spot. They’re alerting you to the issue and in some cases what they really need is a sympathetic ear.
Empathy is the key ingredient here.
Channel your inner human and put yourself in their shoes. They will sense and appreciate your shared frustration and accept your apologies as truth rather than a robotic response to whatever hiccup that has inconvenienced them.
The Real-time Feedback Loop: Take note and report back.
While the Empathetic Sounding Board persona may sound suspiciously similar to the way a Therapist approaches their relationships, consider next, the second persona: The Real-time Feedback Loop, or your company’s Chief Intelligence Officer.
As a listener in this persona, pay close attention to the features that your customers inquire about. Make note of these questions and suggestions. I’m currently a Beta user for a new CSM tool, Trustfuel, a platform designed specifically for Customer Success professionals where I store all client notes in one aggregated interface. So far, their software has been extremely useful for this purpose as well as their task management feature which includes the ability to set up automated Success Workflows for standardized task management across clients.
Once you’ve gathered valuable data, report back to your team. Businesses are constantly sending out surveys to grasp feedback from their customer base. In this position, you’re receiving voluntary feedback from those using your service in the wild, and thus become “uniquely well-positioned to help develop, improve, and update products ”.
By establishing real relationships, you quickly become a mine for precious data that can inform your organization’s future product roadmap, marketing, sales and training strategies.
The key here is to complete “the loop” by then reaching out to specific customers once their requested feature has been implemented to acknowledge that their voice has been heard.
The Silent Listener: Step back and observe
The role of the Silent Listener is twofold: 1) Observe your customer’s adoption and interaction with your product and; 2) Pay close attention to what’s being said about your organization and customer oriented practices in the greater community.
How can you do this effectively?
For customer activity, dive into client usage and adoption of your product. Set up custom reports and make sure you take the time to read into the metrics. Are your clients using the product? When was the last time they logged in? Has their usage dropped recently? Annie Tsai, a Customer Success professional asserts that explicit customer feedback only accounts for 10% of information, and the rest you have to search for through implicit channels like usage and adoption.
For chatter in the greater online community, there are simple measures such as setting up google alerts that can go a long way. Make it a regular part of your routine to chat with your Social Media team to understand what’s being said about your company through online channels.
These are important voices and indicators of your company’s general customer satisfaction, and it’s critical to be informed about any type of commentary, reviews, feedback etc. that are readily accessible either through your own platform or online.
Once you have a grasp on what that content is, you should take it one step further and investigate if there are insights to be taken from this information and applied to your customer relationships.
In summary, listening is a highly underrated and extremely easy and cost effective practice to implement or improve in your day-to-day.
Each of the listener personas described above offer something unique and elements of all three should be incorporated into your customer relationships. Ultimately, as an employee in a customer facing role you represent the customer voice within your own organization – you are their advocate – and it would be impossible to do that great task justice without employing your best listening skills.
Listening, while one of the more basic elements of human communication is one of the keys to success in the relationships and partnerships in our personal lives, and it holds the same level of importance in our professional relationships. As stated by Samuel Hulick in an online article on the subject, “ When you stop listening to customers, your company starts dying”; with that in mind, be cognizant of talking less in order to listen more. The results will speak for themselves.
If you’d like to chat Customer Success with me in greater detail please message me @therealswoodlet and/or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the newsletter below to get more tips like these straight to your inbox!