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!

3 Ways an Improvement Success Framework Can Supercharge Your Experience Program

These days, it’s not uncommon for brands to take the term “listening program” to mean a series of listening posts set up across multiple channels.

Yes, those posts are an important part of listening, but experience programs can be so much more (and do so much more for your business). They can go far beyond listening in across channels and reacting to customer comments only as they come in.

Listening for, reacting to, and measuring customer sentiment in this manner is what’s commonly known as experience management. And honestly, it rarely moves the needle for brands or creates a better experience for customers. Experience improvement (XI), by contrast, allows companies to achieve both of those goals by connecting to customers in a very human way. Essentially, it pays for brands to have an experience improvement success framework.

Today, we’re going to touch on three ways a success framework can add unbridled power to any improvement effort:

  1. Proving ROI
  2. Listening Purposefully
  3. Owning The Moments That Matter

Key #1: Proving ROI

ROI has been a notoriously fickle element of experience programs for years—but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the difficulty of proving ROI stems less from experience programs being a financially elusive unicorn than many companies not tying their program to a quantifiable objective.

This is why it is crucial that brands establish hard, specific goals for their experience program. An objective like “be more customer-centric” isn’t going to cut it, especially when it comes to proving ROI. Rather, experience practitioners and stakeholders need to work together to hash out program objectives that can be tied to financial goals.

Whether it’s acquiring X amount of new customers or lowering cost to serve by Y percent, creating goals like these and gearing your program toward them will make establishing ROI much, much easier.

Key #2: Listening Purposefully

ROI isn’t the only area a success framework can help companies stencil in. This setup can also help brands better identify who to listen to and why.

Conventional wisdom holds that companies should listen for feedback from anyone, but that isn’t necessarily true. Callous as it may sound to some, the truth is that some audiences are just more worth listening to than others. A success framework can help companies identify which audiences they need to listen to to achieve program goals.

This approach is also handy for cutting through the mountains and mountains of data that experience programs inevitably rake in. They also help programs get to the heart of providing a great experience, which leads us to our final topic:

Key #3: Owning The Moments That Matter

The moments that matter are the instances in which the needs of customers, employees, and businesses all connect. They’re the moments in which a customer journey transcends a transaction and becomes a profound emotional connection. Owning the moments that matter is vital to creating connections and inspiring transformational success across your business.

This final key is a culmination of establishing financial goals, listening purposefully, and taking action—ultimately creating meaning for customers. That capacity to create meaning is what sets the best brands apart from the competition and carries them to the top of their verticals. And it all starts with building an experience improvement success framework.

Click here to learn more about how to create a success framework and why doing so at the very start of your experience improvement journey will guarantee success for you, your customers, and your employees.

3 Simple Steps That Make Your CX Program Actually Move The Needle

It’s no secret that many companies’ experience initiatives aren’t delivering the results that those brands expect and, frankly, need. Too many customer experience (CX) programs are stuck solely on giving companies metrics, which by themselves cannot deliver a meaningfully improved experience and thus a stronger bottom line.

However, there is a solution. Companies don’t have to stay stuck merely “managing” their experiences. We’ve put together three proven steps that companies can follow to take their program, and thus their brand, to the top:

  1. Determining Business Objectives
  2. Gathering The Right Data
  3. Taking Intelligent Action

Step #1: Determining Business Objectives

Traditionally, many firms have been in such a hurry to start listening in on their customers’ tastes and preferences. And while this eagerness is admirable, it often results in wantonly turning listening posts on everywhere and waiting for insights to roll in. Listening is important, yes, but listening passively is worlds different than listening intently. The former focuses on gathering metrics, feeding those metrics into a piece-by-piece reactive strategy, and calling it a day. The latter calls for businesses to firmly establish what they want to achieve with their experience program before turning any ears on.

There are several merits to determining business objectives before listening to customers, and they all have to do with looking before leaping. First, companies need to decide what business problems they want their experience program to solve. Foregoing this step and listening for the sake of listening is why so many programs either fail or provide ROI that’s murky at best.

Additionally, companies can take considering objectives as an opportunity to tie their experience programs to financial goals. Like we just said, it’s hard to prove a CX initiative’s ROI if it has no clear objective beyond just listening to customers. Spelling your program’s goals out in financial terms gives CX teams a hard number to work toward—then, when that number is achieved, those teams will have a much easier time using that achievement to leverage additional funding in the boardroom.

Step #2: Gathering The Right Data

There’s another reason why it pays to stop and think before turning listening posts on in every channel: some customer segments are more worth listening to than others. This idea may sound a bit callous, but think about it—a listening program geared toward evaluating a loyalty program is going to be much more useful if it hones in on long-term customers instead of casting a net all over the place.

This notion is also known as the concept of gathering the right data. It’s okay for brands to use different listening posts for different audiences—in fact, this strategy is much more likely to garner useful intelligence. Thus, it’s just as important for companies to consider their audiences as it is concrete financial goals when it comes to experience programs. The right data can yield the right intelligence, which can enable brands to take the right steps toward transformational success.

Step #3: Taking Intelligent Action

Much of the work in this step will already have been done if companies follow the previous two steps correctly. Like we said, it’s a good idea for brands to look before they leap and carefully consider what they hope to accomplish with a listening program. Yes, the goal of “listening” is all well and good, but the problem with experience management is that the buck stops there. Take your CX aspirations further than gathering metrics and decide what that listening is meant to accomplish. More customer acquisition? Retention? Lowering cost to serve? Set those goals and attach dollar amounts to them.

Then, take some time to consider which audiences you need to listen to in order to achieve those goals. Arming yourself with concrete goals and intelligence from the right audiences will enable your organization to take the meaningful action it needs to reach the top of its vertical, make a stronger bottom line, and create an emotional, connective experience for both customers and employees. Companies can use these steps to move the needle and take their program from experience management to something far more profound: experience improvement.

Want to learn more about how CX programs can move the needle and create lasting success for businesses, customers, and employees? Check out our new POV article on the subject, written by EVP Brian Clark, here.

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