You’ve already been exposed to a few of my customer service diatribes and bad customer service experiences in Customer Disservice. You’ve also seen how little things make a huge difference in my post on Customer Service Without Boundaries. What’s the difference? Two little awkwardly shaped pieces of cartilage covered with skin (and in my case a few errant black hairs that I occasionally have to pluck so I don’t look like Ernest Borgnine). Figure it out? EARS!
Listening makes all the difference. Whether or not your front-line employee (or even you for that matter) takes that moment to genuinely not just hear, but absorb and appreciate the concern of your customer is the determinant of which way the interaction will go. Use your ears and everything will be okay. Fail to do so and you could potentially create a blogger who has no problem whatsoever berating your or your company in front of millions (I’m a nice guy though – I don’t name names…).
“Thanks Mike. Helpful advice. ‘Listen.’ Gee whiz… you’re like the Yoda of customer service. You’ve given me nothing helpful or practical in this post. You must have been a consultant at some point in your career…” You must be a new reader (welcome to the blog by the way!). Regular readers of these posts know the drill. I tee up an issue, highlight why it’s important, tell a story or two, occasionally soliloquize, then give you one or two real-world tools to try out in your business. Strap in. Here we go.
The easier something is to do, the more you need to put structure or process around it (just not onerous amounts of process). Why? If it’s easy, everyone will say “yeah, we know how to do it and we do it all the time” and then it never happens. Seriously – ask yourself when is the last time you genuinely listened to a customer concern? Can’t remember? See what I mean? Luckily there are some pretty easy things you can do around listening skills.
The coolest one I ever heard of was at Disney. With three kids, I get there pretty often (it’s become like Cheers – everybody knows my name down there). In this case, I attended a workshop on customer service at the Disney Institute. They relayed the following story. They had one particular business in Epcot Center where they sold fish & chips. To get the fish & chips “to go,” customers had to go through the bar area and pick them up at the bar itself. Needless to say rolling a Big Foot Monster Stroller for sextuplets through a bar isn’t a pleasant experience for a parent. One day, the staff at the restaurant was in an ideation session on how to improve their particular business.
“I hear people asking about fish & chips to go sometimes but it’s not a big deal. I just tell them to get it at the bar.”
“Yeah, but I hear people ask for it too.”
Everyone had heard it. No one had done anything about it because they thought it was a one-off incident. Collectively the group realized there was a broader trend about take-out fish & chips. Long story short – they built a kiosk outside the restaurant where they sell fish & chips to go now. $3MM a year worth of fish & chips to go… Listening clearly has value.
Now that we’ve established it has value, how do you do it in your organizations? After this event, Disney instituted what they call “listening posts” where associates are taught to view themselves as feedback gatherers from all points of the park. They feed their observations into the process and managers look for trends like the fish & chips point. It’s not a highly structured process with millions of forms to fill out or mandatory staff meetings. It’s simply an emphasis placed on the listening function during routine training and in team meetings. Everyone is asked to provide their observations with the goal of improving the customer experience.
So where’s your organization’s opportunity to listen better? How will you systematically (yet efficiently and unobtrusively) gather your team’s observations with a goal of improving the customer experience (and thereby retention, spending and profits)? Buffalo Springfield had it right… “Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down…”
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC