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Monday, May 7, 2018

Minding Your Business! The Sustainability of Listening: When listening becomes a recipe for organisational and brand success

Presented On US Sports Net By Yahoo Small Business!
By: Ephraim Zvarevashe

Communication involves speaking and listening. When kids are growing up they are mostly taught how to speak. Rarely are children given a listening lesson by their parents. The same mistake is happening in our organisations every day where organisations are ignoring customer complaints as if they know what is best for their customers. It is very important for organisations or brands to master and execute the art of listening. When your customers start to complain, it is time to stop playing your usual jingles, put your ear on the ground, meditate upon those things which made them for in love with your brand in the first place, retrace your footsteps and bounce back with a much stronger positioning strategy.

Sustainable brand-customer intimacy and advocacy is sown, cultivated and nurtured through the ability to listen attentively to what the customer is communicating. In other words, it is sustainable and it pays for businesses to make a conscious decision to listen to their customers. Feedback from customers should be viewed as a low-hanging fruit for those organisation or brands wired to go that extra mile. Brands like these listen and collaborate with their customers to deliver exactly what their customers want and more. Combine this with an organisation’s listening and follow-through abilities and you are serving your customers a winning formula as a brand. Nothing beats serving a happy customer with exactly what they want. They will certainly keep coming back for more and make all the right noises about your brand.



Listening always guarantees sustainability for every company or brand. Everything which is done by employees and their bosses start from someone having listened. Decisions must be taken after realizing that strategies or some product portfolio have to be changed in the organisation to ensure a brand stays relevant and the organisation a going concern. Inability to properly listen is likely to result in bad or incorrect decisions being made or even if good decisions are made, they still have to be communicated to subordinates. The subordinates have to master the art of listening to eliminate blind spots between decision making and implementation.

When customers are complaining about certain aspects of a product or brand, the biggest favor an organisation can do for itself is to listen and take corrective action. Being stubborn or appearing to be stubborn about it is a very good recipe for customer churn. This is especially true in an industry where barriers to exit are almost nonexistent or next to zero in terms of taking a financial hit from leaving a current supplier. A good example is the mobile telecommunication industry. In Zimbabwe, the cost of buying a new SIM card is only a $1, in South Africa it is Zar0.99 or sometimes free and in the UK it is only one pound or sometimes free. This implies the financial cost to the customer of moving to competition is negligible. However, the cost to the organisation of acquiring new customers is huge especially if the customers leaving are prepared to spread their displeasure to anyone who cares to listen. Thanks to social media platforms like facebook, whatsapp or twitter, every current and potential customer is subconsciously being forced to pay attention. Information, especially about a company or brand failing to deliver what it promised, is now readily available to everyone and customers no longer have to sweat to access it. A simple complaint about a brand performance sent on twitter is potentially re-tweeted across the world within minutes for everyone to potentially see it.

If customers are complaining it means there is something which an organisation is not doing properly or to the expectation of the customer. It could also mean the promises made to the customers were not met or the service or product quality being delivered has deteriorated. At times brands might find it beneficial in the long run to encourage customers to raise complaints against them so that they can fix whatever concerns being raised in the early stages of a brand life cycle. In an industry where there are many players with equally good or better products, customers can easily switch over to competition. The loss of customers only serves to sustain competition’s growth. Competition in the business world is akin to the food web approach where rival organisations feed off each other in the customer acquisition race and the fight amongst brands providing the same solutions to the same market segment is always to get to the top of the food-chain (segment chain). Organisations prepared to embark on a sustainable growth trajectory should make it very difficult for their customers to leave. The starting point in tying customers down is through listening to their concerns and doing the right and well calculated things to address them.

History is rich with a lot of once leading organisations which folded after failing to simply listen to the voice of reason. Kodak, at one point a market leader in their industry filed for bankruptcy in 2011. This was simply because when the digital camera was introduced, Kodak ignored their customers’ change in tastes and assumed they know what was best for the market instead of listening to what the market was communicating. Blackberry also fell into the same trap when it ignored customers’ need to have cheaper and powerful smart phones. The company believed they knew batter what their customers needed, but they were wrong and the market forces punished them to leave them close to insolvency. It proved to be a myopic disaster for the company. Samsung and Apple thrived where Blackberry failed. They listened, learnt and provided customers with what they wanted and more. Coca Cola also had their low point with the introduction of the "New Coke" after making a very bad assumption that they also knew what their customers wanted. These brands failed because they could not realize that sustainability is only for those brands prepared to listen to customer sentiments. The spectacular collapse of investment bank, Lehman Brothers, during the global financial crisis in 2008 is also a classic case of what happens when organisations stop listening. The bank failed to pay attention to basic economic principles. Unfortunately, the collapse of just this single bank had a contagion effect and triggered what came to be known as the global financial crisis.

On the other hand, there are also a number of leading organisations which have achieved random growth and success by making a conscious decision to be customer centric in everything they do. Such brands are able to build a sustainable brand advocacy pool amongst its customers. New product ideas are generated from paying attention when customers are speaking. In addition, customer loyalty and a strong fan base is a product of employing strategies to listen to the feedback from customers. Examples include search giant, Google, which has been refining customer search experience and introducing new products after paying attention to customer requirements and feedback. Amazon evolved from being simply a books only online store to an online store for almost everything and also a device manufacturer, thanks to aggressively following a customer centric strategy. Apple proudly looks at its customers as its own fans. Only a handful of organisations across the world have the potential to turn customers into adoring fans.

There is sustainability for a company or brand in the ability to listen to what customers are asking a brand to provide them with. Customer centric "listening devices" through every touch point provides a great recipe for winning the war against competition. Companies should never assume they know better what customers want than the customers themselves. Such myopic behavior belongs to the "grand-father" companies, most of which closed shop a long time ago simply because they were too stubborn to listen to their customers. Customers sustain brands through their patronage and customers who are whole-heartedly in love with a particular brand would register their objections through the brand’s available touch points in the hope their concerns will be addressed. If they feel they are not being listened to they would simply vote with their wallets by way of taking their business to rival suppliers.

It is, therefore, rewarding for companies and brands to listen to their customers. Listening ensures:
•Sustainability of a company and brand

•problems with a product are detected early and corrective measures taken

•new product ideas are generated

•customer loyalty and retention is secured and new customers are recruited

•organisational growth and success

•employee morale receives a boost

Ephraim Zvarevashe writes about sustainability.
Email ezvarevashe@gmail.com Twitter @ezvarevashe Blog Sustainability TipOff

Merchant Solutions, ecommerce, yahoo store, Yahoo! Small Business, business to business, online store, commerce, small business, domains, web hosting, business mail, Aabaco


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