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5 ways to listen to customers more actively

Andrej Csizmadia

Andrej Csizmadia

August 27, 2020
Last modified on April 13, 2021 at 9:43 am

When it comes to B2C communication, the prevailing attitude is that companies are the one doing the talking, while customers only speak with their wallets. However, this attitude has come under attack recently from both sides of the fence.

Customers want their voices to be heard, and they use all available channels to share their opinions about companies and their products. Businesses on the other hand are starting to see the value of listening to customer feedback, and they are keeping their ears open as a result.

But what does listening to customers actually entail? Is it just a matter of reading reviews and testimonials, or is there more to it? And most importantly, how does listening to customers translate into tangible business benefits?

To find out the answers, check out our primer on the best practices in customer listening in the remainder of this post.

What is customer listening?

In pre-modern times, listening to customers meant exactly that. You used your ears to listen to what customers within your store were saying. Today, listening covers a variety of methods for receiving customer feedback. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Reading comments on social media
  • Sending out surveys over email
  • Analyzing customer behavior on your website
  • Monitoring keywords related to your brand
  • Talking to customers directly via live chat

To put things simply, whenever a customer broadcasts information about your business and you manage to receive it, it counts as listening.

Why listening is beneficial for your business

We’ve stressed the importance of listening to customers, but we’ve yet to explain its benefits from a business perspective. Here are the 5 reasons why listening to customers is a viable business strategy.

5 ways to listen to customers more actively
  1. It provides a source of customer data. In order to sell effectively, you need to know who you’re selling to. And listening to what customers are saying is one of the most reliable ways to acquire customer data.
  2. It helps you retain customers for longer. Consistent two-way communication is essential for keeping customers involved with your brand in the long-term. And customers that know they’re being listened to are more likely to hang around.
  3. It improves customer lifetime value through up-selling and cross-selling. Listening to customers will help you discover up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.
  4. It lets you leverage testimonials to improve your reputation. By republishing customer feedback on your website, you will give your business more credibility in the eye of the consumer.
  5. It helps you discover brand ambassadors with your audience. Positive word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing, and by actively listening you will learn where it’s coming from. You can then reach out to these individuals to create a shared promotional strategy.

5 ways to listen more effectively

We know what listening to customers means, and why it matters. Now let’s see how it works in practice. Here are the 5 ways of listening to customers in a strategic manner.

1. Listening On social media

Social media is the primary channel for gathering customer feedback today. Social media platforms offer a variety of listening features, including comments, reviews, and likes. Some offer more-specialized features such as automatic live-chat popups, phone CTAs, and more.

5 ways to listen to customers more actively

Listening on social media involves monitoring these channels, as well as actively engaging in conversation with followers. The best way to listen to someone is to get them to speak themselves.

2. Listening through web forms

Your website is also a listening platform of sorts. You can use it for all forms of listening mentioned above, with the added convenience of custom web forms. A web form is simply a means for customers to leave feedback.

Web forms are typically hosted on the “Contact Us” page, but you can also add one to your static website user interface, such as the navigation bar. Subscribe forms are typically hosted this way.

3. Listening at the point of sale

Timing is an often understated factor of listening. There is a difference between a customer mentioning your brand offhand in a tweet, and a customer talking to you immediately before, during, and after the point of sale. Point of sale data is more likely to contain actually useful information.

4. Listening via customer service

Customer service is a process defined by listening to customers. Whether you’re using email, live-chat, or phone for customer service, the data you gather by listening is invaluable. Customers are more likely to express negative feedback in a customer service context, which is often more valuable than positive feedback.

5. Listening to focus groups

If your budget allows it, you can run listening simulations with the help of focus groups. Focus testing is the process of presenting your products and services to a specially-selected group of consumers, and then having a conversation with them.

Focus groups are more effective than surveys because they’re conducted in-person, which makes it easier for people to relax and talk honestly about your brand.

Helpful listening tools

Listening in a B2C context is an asymmetrical process. Customers will always outnumber your listening staff, which can put a strain on your resources. To combat this issue, software companies have developed tools that can help you automate elements of the listening process. Here are three examples of such tools.

LiveAgent help desk

If you’re having trouble with providing an adequate level of customer service due to lack of staff or resources, LiveAgent Help Desk software will help you scale your customer service operation to meet customer demand and provide a stellar customer experience.

LiveAgent Help Desk includes features such as ticketing, contact forms, live chat, social media integration, knowledge base and forum creation, and more. The basic subscription is completely free, and you can upgrade it to suit your business needs.

5 ways to listen to customers more actively

GanttPRO Gantt charts

GanttPRO offers a project management system based on Gantt charts. Gantt chart software is based on bar charts, which are used to display dependencies within activities for a given project. GanttPRO gives you the means to coordinate and track your listening activities with ease.

GanttPRO includes features such as plan views, project templates, collaboration tools, team management, and others. The basic subscription for up to 5 team members is $8.90 per month, with options to upgrade your subscription.

Really Simple Systems CRM

Listening to customers is only useful insofar you can actually store and analyze the data you gather, and Really Simple Systems gives you a convenient way of doing just that. CRM software allows you to build long-lasting relationships with customers through the power of marketing automation.

Really Simple Systems CRM includes features such as sales tracking, marketing campaign management, customer segmentation, and more. Subscriptions start at €0 for up to two users, and go up to €41 for the full feature list.

If you want to succeed, keep listening

Business orthodoxy used to treat customers as passive consumers, which had a lasting impact on how B2C communication was conceived in business circles. However, once customers started acquiring a voice thanks to social media and other digital outlets, this idea came under attack.

Today, business success is practically impossible if you’re unwilling to listen to what your customers are saying. So stay ahead of the curve, and keep your ears open when your customers try to talk – it will tell you more about what you need to do on a strategic level than any economy textbook.

Andrej Csizmadia

Andrej Csizmadia

Growth Marketer

Andy is Growth Marketer at LiveAgent. Previously, he studied International Relations and Business Diplomacy and was active as a volunteer in the world's largest student run organization, AIESEC. Running, music and reading books are his favourite free-time activities.

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