Taking the Lead in Customer Relationships through Ingaged Communication
companies today pride themselves on listening to their customers. But I would
like to ask one question . . .
opinion, listening alone cannot do the job of building enduring and profitable
customer relationships. The word “listening,” after all, seems passive. It
implies that when customers call, you pick up the phone and hear what they have
to say. Or when customers complain or post a negative comment about you online,
hearing and reacting are good. But when you limit customer interactions to
those activities, you are only dealing with incoming communications. You become
like a tennis player who only gets to hit back all the balls that come across
the net – and who never gets to serve. Can you win the game of either tennis or
CRM by only reacting? Not if you consider winning improving. If you are really
serious about engaging your customers, you want to be able to initiate
exchanges proactively, not reactively.
some ways to get in the game and win it.
Invite Customers to Join Advisory
advisory panels are a terrific way to get feedback and input to help make your business
better. These panels can take many
different shapes If your company sells high-ticket products you most likely
would want a permanent panel where you would rotate members and out. If your company sells lower-priced products
to a massive number of customers, your panels may be one-time events; you would
still hold many panels, but they would always be made up of new and fresh
remember that panels that are built with some customers who have had bad
experiences can be some of the most powerful panels that you can have.
Create CRM Employee Panels
likely you’re mining the data you receive in your CRM. But remember that
creating panels of your own employees who are regularly in touch with customers
is a great idea too. They will enable you to understand the intangibles and can
get you to positive improvements faster and more innovatively than just reading
Rethink the Way You Solicit and
are important tools for assessing customer satisfaction. Yet if you send out a
survey that asks 15 multiple-choice questions, you will end up with 15
responses to questions that might not have much to do with the issues that are
really on your customers’ minds. That’s why it is important to ask open-ended
questions, like “How could we work harder to meet your expectations?” Divide the responses amongst your team and
have everyone review them. Also, take make time to read some of these responses
yourself. The feedback is invaluable.
Build Personal Lines of Communication to
Take a little time to
establish personal relationships with important clients. If you can pick up the
phone every few weeks and ask them, “How was your last order?” or, “Is there
anything we can do for you that we’re not doing already?” you will hear
comments that can help you keep customers satisfied and loyal. And again, you
will be initiating the conversation instead of reacting.
Train Your Team to Go Beyond
“Active Listening” and Hear What Customers Want to Say
In my book
Ingaging Leadership, I wrote that if
you really want to hear what people have to tell you, just listening
attentively is not enough. I recommend a different process in which you stop
listening for statements that are wrong
and start listening instead for statements that are right, or which could turn out to be right after further
exploration. Everyone who is in contact with clients and customers should be
trained to think and listen in this way. When they listen for those “nuggets of
wisdom” from customers, they will come up with more actionable pieces of
information to act on.
Keep Everyone Involved in the Implementation of their Ideas
As a company leader, resist the
temptation to improve or implement people’s suggestions without explaining how
and why. Restate the feedback and ideas you have heard, explain how you would
like to use them, and then share that information back with everyone on your
team. Your goal is to make sure that people stay involved as you put their
ideas into action.
To Summarize . . .
that weaves through the strategies I have outlined in this article is that it
is up to you and your company to keep your communicatios with customers
proactive, not reactive. If you want to hear what your customers are really
thinking, you can’t sit back and wait. You need to ask for those opinions in
ways that are positive, innovative, imaginative and open.
Evan Hackel, the creator of
the concept of Ingaged Leadership, is a recognized business and franchise
expert and consultant. Evan is also a professional speaker and author.
Evan is Principal and Founder of Ingage
Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. A leader
in the field of training as well, Evan serves as CEO of Tortal Training, a
Charlotte North Carolina-based firm that specializes in developing and
implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. To
learn more about Inage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership, visit Ingage.net. Follow @ehackel.