Are you listening to your customers?

There are all kinds of jokes about one partner in an established relationship not listening and paying attention to the other. But what kind of damage would be done if the partner who had stopped listening was a business, and the frustrated other half a customer?

A recent weekend of mine was jam packed rather than being relaxing as I would want from a couple of days off, filled with traffic jams, a house move and a wasted journey to a sofa retailer.

That’s no one’s idea of a chilled weekend, right?  Certainly not mine.

I was frustrated by the lack of ‘listening’ from the company doing the roadworks – whose staff still appear to be hanging around and snoozing (did you miss it?) in vehicles, whilst the queuing traffic cause drivers to get even more frustrated than normal.  No wonder the roadworks are expected to take nine months to complete!  I contacted them to ask why they had staff snoozing in vehicles at 9.00am when the traffic was backed up only for them to tell me they would speak to the team leader.  He was stood next to the vehicle allowing it.

Roll on summer 2019.  Until then, I will take an alternative route.

The estate agent that we have just left after four years, was rude from day one.  It took months to get any work done and communication was none existent.  I was constantly having to chase them to find out why work hadn’t been completed and it felt like they were doing me a favour by answering the phone.

We got used to it as we didn’t have an option.

This was put into perspective by the new estate agent who handled our recent move with absolute customer focus.  It was ‘chalk & cheese’ and after seeing their values adorning the office for both customers and staff to see, it wasn’t difficult to see why.

Once we got through the roadworks, we arrived at the local retail park.  We wandered around a furniture retailer after seeing their recent advert on TV and saw a sofa that would be perfect in our new lounge.  “Take away today!” the attached ticket said.

“You can’t take it away today as it will leave a space in the store and other customers won’t be able to buy it sir.  The ticket is there to encourage you to buy it!”  The manager turned up after asking four times only for us to be told that they wouldn’t budge and we would have to wait two to three weeks.  Expectation level set and under delivered before we had paid.

There are only two reasons to listen – to understand, or to respond. If you are only listening to your customers in order to respond – usually with an excuse or defence of some kind – then the damage to your brand and reputation could be unquantifiable.

I was 1-2-1 with a prospective client recently and after 55 minutes he said, “I have done all the talking, you should now speak.”  I explained that I was listening and learning about him and his situation whilst he was speaking.

If you are trained in sales or have customers that are important to you, that is how it should be.

I am sure you have all come across poor service levels in either your personal lives or your business on a regular basis.  It appears to be the norm now and few seem to actually care.

For somebody that prides themselves on customer service and doing the best I can, it pains me to witness poor service when it is unnecessary.

In an environment where most sectors are saturated with both on and offline competition, it is rare to find a true unique selling point (USP) anymore.  There will always be somebody with greater qualifications, more experience and better results, offering the same or better product and service as you.

The one thing that most small business owners need to differentiate themselves in such crowded market sectors is service level.

Most customers will tell you when they are unhappy with service.  All you have to do is be brave enough to ask them and then listen when you do.

If you don’t listen or don’t care, you can expect your customers to vote with their feet.

Our sofa arrived two weeks after buying it.  Now we can sit and relax.


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