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3 Steps to Intentional Customer Listening

Listening to customers carries obvious importance for any customer experience (CX) program. Employee and marketplace perspectives are important too, make no mistake, but customer feedback is an incredibly meaningful source of intel on where your brand experience is at, what’s great about it, and what could be better. Because of this, analyst firms like Forrester have begun more critically examining how to achieve intentful listening.

Intentful listening is where customer experience and Experience Improvement (XI) intersect. Experience improvement allows brands to create fundamentally transformed experiences that connect to customers on a deep level, enticing them to return to your brand for more even amid fierce competition or other marketplace conditions. Thus, it makes sense to constantly evaluate how to better listen to customers. Our three-step guide to better listening can help you achieve that goal:

How to Achieve Intentional Customer Listening

  1. Go Beyond Survey Ratings
  2. Contextualize Feedback
  3. Identify Changing Attitudes

Step #1: Go Beyond Survey Ratings

Survey ratings can be a quick source of customer sentiment, but they also run the risk of being too superficial. Or, put another way, numerical ratings and scales are great for rapidly letting brands know whether customers had a great experience or not… but that’s about all the information they provide. Thus, survey ratings are not the best means of listening intently.

To solve this problem (and to delve into deeper listening) brands need to provide customers the chance to express feedback and sentiment in their own terms. This means building surveys that include open-ended questions and utilizing platforms that can effectively analyze the sentiments hidden in that written feedback (also known as unstructured data). This approach, unlike ratings, gives brands actionable feedback that they can work into improvement plans.

Step #2: Contextualize Feedback

Letting customers provide unstructured feedback is a great start, but it’s only the first step toward more intenful listening. To truly understand customer sentiment, brands must also consider the context in which that information is being presented. For example, which element of the experience are customers referring to? Was there a particular step they found praiseworthy or unwieldy?

Contextualizing feedback is just as important as collecting it in an unstructured format if brands want to meaningfully improve the experiences they create. Much like allowing for unstructured data, context goes a long way toward helping brands create specific action plans and, subsequently, meaningful improvement. This is yet another arena that ratings-based questions aren’t always as useful for.

Step #3: Identify Changing Attitudes

Unstructured, contextualized feedback is important enough on its own, but its ability to help brands see the writing on the wall (i.e., identify changing customer tastes and attitudes) cannot be understated. As every experience practitioner knows, customer tastes are anything but static. They evolve and change in response to everything from world events to product trends. Brands that hope to become or remain successful must tune into those changes as they happen, which is why being able to identify changing customer attitudes is so important.

By staying on top of customer tastes and responding accordingly via meaningful experience improvement, brands can demonstrate that they are committed to both improving interactions with customers and staying well aware of the important factors that keep those individuals coming back to them instead of the competition. This constant awareness is the crown jewel of listening intently to customers, and it means the difference between being an industry leader or a follower.

Want to learn how to get more out of your customer listening efforts? Check out our eBook, “How You Listen Matters: Modernizing Your Methods & Approach to Customer Feedback” for free here!

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