Today’s customers expect a lot from a business. With so much competition out there, you need to provide products and services that stand out from the rest and meet the exact needs of your audience.
Actively listening to your customer base is the quickest and most effective way to know what your customer needs. In this guide, we explore how to listen to customers effectively and use the insights you gain to build stronger customer relationships and benefit your business in the long term.
Why do brands need to listen to their customers?
Because they will tell you exactly what they want!
In today’s digital world, customers are giving their opinion and feedback more openly and across different platforms. Everywhere you look, your business is being scrutinised and talked about by existing and potential customers. The power that listening can give you should not be underestimated.
Here are three compelling reasons why you should fine-tune your customer-listening skills right:
It will help you gather data
The customer service representatives who work and deal directly with the customer are at the front line for this. They need to be empathetic, friendly and possess exceptional listening skills to gather crucial feedback and data from the customers they are serving. Use this information to improve what they don’t like and continue doing what they are happy with.
Being heard will keep customers loyal
People want their opinions to be taken seriously. By being a good listener, you show them that you value their feedback. Action what your customers have to say and build trust by following up on your promise. They are likely to come back for more and stay with you for the long-term as a patron when you fulfil their expectations.
Loyal customers spend 33% more than new ones, and that’s worth the investment you put into listening to them.
It will help you stand out from the crowd
Listening to customers gives you the opportunity to build a personal and open relationship with them. By connecting with your customer at a deeper level, you ensure that they turn to you for advice, guidance, and news instead of your competitors. An unsatisfied customer is likely to air their grievances and turn to your opponent, so make sure you listen to what they have to say first.
By listening to your customer, you take control of your narrative and keep an eye on all aspects of your business. It is all about being there for your customers when they need you and understanding their needs. For this to be productive and cost-effective, you need to know how to listen to customers successfully. Let’s look more closely.
How to listen to customers effectively
From your partner to a colleague, parent to teacher, and even customer – the better the listening skills, the better the quality of communication and rapport you will get. No matter what relationship you’re trying to forge, being a good listener is the key to strengthening it. Here are nine ways to actively listen to your customers.
1. Ask them to leave a review or rating
So, you want to know what your customer thinks about your product or service? Ask them to leave a customer review. This is one of the most effective ways to listen to your customer as you are asking them to share their honest feedback about a product or service they have used. Most customers are more than happy to share their opinion when they feel like you value it.
Reviews can be displayed on your website’s product page, social media, and search engines. They are a great way to get publicity for your brand using real customer’s stories and get insight into what’s working and what isn’t. Listen closely to complaints and work on resolving them swiftly to maintain a trusting relationship with that customer.
Even reviews with a negative tone can be used to your advantage and act as a great listening tool. Never delete or ignore a bad review. Apologise, offer a solution, and use it as a learning curve to do better next time.
2. Engage with them on social media
Reviews are a great way to generate social proof for your brand, but you shouldn’t neglect the real social power of social media platforms. Maintain an engaging and regular presence on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube as long as your target audience is there too. Talk to your demographic in the language they use online to entice and attract them.
Brands prefer to post business updates in a formal yet engaged tone on LinkedIn while opting for more casual posts on TikTok and Instagram.
Encourage your social media followers to comment on your posts and share your content. You can also reply to relevant discussions in the comments to provide more engagement. There are over 53 million people who actively use social media in the UK alone, providing you with a substantial population to engage with and listen to.
3. Send out surveys
Some customers are shy and do not want to air their opinions and feedback in public. That’s completely normal, but they are a silent demographic you don’t want to miss out on. Customer surveys are a fantastic way to take a proactive approach to listening by simplifying the feedback process for the customer.
You can do this by asking your customers to fill out a short questionnaire, providing them with multiple-choice options, or even asking them to provide a score based on your rating system. This makes it clear and easy for the customer to provide an evaluation. You can always end your survey with an open-ended question for more feedback.
Surveys can be emailed to a customer, or they can be placed at the end of their shopping journey but be sure to provide a range of feedback options so the customer can choose to fill it out when they want to.
4. Respond quickly and in real-time
In order to build the strongest relationship with your customer, you need to not only be a great listener but you should also respond to and engage with them promptly. Almost 80% of customers expect a business to respond to them on social media within the day, with a whopping 40% expecting a reply within an hour.
Speed of response matters because this shows the customer how much you value what they have to say. It shows them that you are available to listen to them anytime and on any platform. It will also help you manage expectations and ease a crisis before it escalates. Use chatbots and hire ample customer service teams to manage all your phone lines and respond to queries on online channels like social media and emails.
5. Show empathy
Being a good listener means putting yourself into the customer’s shoes and showing empathy towards what they have to share. You need to understand where they are coming from, the reason for their grievances, and learn how your product or service has made them feel.
Show customers that you care about everything they have to say, and they’ll be more likely to open up to you. You will be able to provide exceptional customer service and build a strong relationship only when you show empathy across their whole customer experience journey. Show empathy by repeating what the customer tells you, so they are satisfied that you are fully listening to them. Offer solutions to their problem and let them know that you will personally work towards solving it.
6. Let them do the talking
One of the best ways for your brand to show empathy and be a good listener is to do just that – listen. Some customers want an outlet to vent and get their frustrations out. Be the shoulder they can rely upon without interrupting them so they can easily ‘get it all out’. Most difficult situations can be nipped in the bud once the customer knows that someone is taking their problem seriously without offering excuses.
If a customer asks to speak to the manager or would like to escalate a problem, then do so swiftly and quietly. Any hesitation from your end might just make them more agitated. Once you solve a problem, follow up with the customer to assure them that it is fixed. They will know that you listened to them and taken their grievance seriously and are likely to come back to you again next time.
7. Provide a personalised service
One of the first things we do when we meet someone new is to introduce ourselves and learn each other’s names. This builds trust, puts the person’s name in our memory, and establishes a personal connection. The same applies to businesses and their customers. If you are dealing with a customer face-to-face, make sure to introduce yourself, ask them how they are, and build a human connection. This helps put a face to the brand.
You can easily offer a personalised service in the digital world too. Ask customers to sign up for your brand’s newsletter and write to them using their name. If you have their date of birth or the day they first used your service, provide them with a one-off discount or special offer to celebrate their special day or the anniversary of shopping with you. A personalised service will put your name above the competition when it comes down to it.
8. Keep in touch regularly
If your brand is out of sight, then it is not in your customer’s mind when they are ready to make their next purchase. In order to build a relationship, you need to stay in constant contact with your customer. Regular emails, posting systematically on social media, and other marketing campaigns are great ways to keep in touch and listen to customers throughout the year.
Always follow up with a customer after a successful transaction. They may have feedback soon after or even six months down the line. Ask them how their experience with your brand was after an important event or during peak times. An e-commerce business can learn more from their customers soon after the Black Friday sales rather than during a quiet summer.
If a potential customer is ignoring you or has not followed through with a transaction, ask them for a reason why. Listening to this feedback can be the crucial step in finally converting them. Use this trick to find out why a one-time customer never came back to you. You might gain useful insights to convert many more patrons.
9. Eavesdrop on the competition
It might sound like a sneaky way to listen to your customers, but a lot of times they might be airing crucial information about your service to your competitors. Use all the techniques you use to listen to your customers to listen to the customers of your rivals as well.
Sift through social media, online forums, and blogs to find out what your competitors are talking about and to learn how their customers respond to it. Many times, disgruntled customers compare their service with what they’ve received from other brands and will be sharing their feedback publicly. Fix what your competitors can’t so that they soon turn to you.
Another great way to listen to both your customers and competitors is to set up online alerts for certain keywords. This way, you will be always in the loop.
Final thoughts: Listening is key for customer retention
Working on providing exceptional customer experience starts by being a good listener. Being available when your customer needs you, engaging with them and ensuring that they feel valued will help you earn their trust. In turn, happy customers are the ones who will stay loyal to your brand and add value to your customer retention strategy.
The tips in this guide will help you build stronger customer relationships and provide you with a deeper insight into your target audience so you can work on improving your business for the long term. Use a mix of these techniques to see what works best for your customers and your business.