“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” – Woodrow Wilson
Who would’ve ever thought that listening to your customer would be an innovative idea? My father grew up in small town businesses. First in his father’s small grocery store then in a local Western Auto. In those days listening to the customer wasn’t optional. You didn’t have a choice when they were standing in front of you.
But as companies grew, the customer’s voice grew more and more distant from the ear of the listening merchant. To close the gap, companies developed exotic and expensive research and development programs that led to a “we know what’s best for the customer” corporate mentality.
Marketing research departments were developed to survey customers about their perceived needs and wants then identify possible trends that could be developed. Surveys were often sent to hundreds or thousands of participants who received incentives for their participation.
All of this was expensive and the results were often debatable.
Today companies that want to sail in uncharted waters to discover the next isle of success are returning to a lost, but not forgotten, method of research. They’re listening.
A recent article in Forbes magazine :
Virgin founder Ted Branson advises new business owners to listen more
than they talk in a LinkedIn blog. “Brilliant ideas can spring from the
most unlikely places,” says the omnipreneur. “So you should always keep
your ears open for some shrewd advice.”
The article goes on to say:
Listening is innovation because it provides a bottom-up look at what’s
really happening at the consumer level. Rather than top-down thinking
that leads us to make what we make because we can make it, it reveals
the opportunity oceans that surround us.
Really? I thought listening was just polite. I thought it was just good customer service. Sounds to me like we’re discovering that no matter how big an organization gets, it has to find a way to act small.
Customers won’t always know what they want or need. But they’ll feel more valued when you listen. And you? Well, you might be rewarded with an innovative idea for your efforts.
If you want to give something to your customer today, give them the gift of listening. They’ll be valued and you’ll be perceived as a part of the innovation generation.
Do you have a story about how listening improved your business relationships? Share it below.
Image: Melvin Gaal (Mindsharing.eu)