Curt Fowler: Learning to Listen to Your Customers

Curt Fowler

Friday, August 25th, 2017

“It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money… It is the customer who pays the wages.” – Henry Ford

I love that quote. It really puts customer excellence into perspective.

You will listen to your boss if for no other reason than the cold, hard fact that he or she can fire you. Same goes for your customers. They are your ultimate boss. As leaders, we must get better at listening to them and acting on what we hear. 

There are a lot of great ways you can be listening to your customers. Surveys, using different tools including the Net Promoter Score, are just one of the methods. Here are some others you can try:

• Social Media

• Focus Groups

• Front line employees can collect feedback

• Complaints – tracking and responding to

• Interview customers – current, past and future

• Contact Us, Speak to the CEO or some other electronic comment capture system from your website

• Apps for your clients

• Innovation Platforms

Most organizations lose the impact of listening when they fail to respond to what they hear. This happens when hearing from customers and employees.

Here is the key. If you ask me to spend my time providing you with feedback or ideas, you better do something with it. Nothing will stop the flow of ideas faster than not responding.  

Your customers are talking. They are either praising your company or complaining. Remember that a potential customer must hear 10 great things about your company to overcome one negative review.

Studies show that 85 percent of customers want to share ideas and insights for improvements, but half of them don’t feel encouraged to speak up and share. It gets even worse when most of the ideas submitted are never implemented.

Plenty of small business owners think they can get by on feel. They think they know their customer so well they can feel if things are going well. That is one of the reasons businesses led by those types of leaders remain small.

Yes, leaders should be talking to their customers and hearing what they say through direct contact. Is that sufficient? Absolutely not. You must have a systematic method for receiving, analyzing and responding to customer feedback. If you do not, you are handicapping the growth of your organization.

Make it easy for your customers to reach out to you when they love you and when you’ve frustrated them. Respond to them and thank them for reaching out. People love to be heard. Make sure your customers feel heard and valued and they will reach out to you more often.

That communication will deepen your relationship with your customers. Your customers will trust that you have their best interest at heart. As their trust in you grows, they will buy more, be less price sensitive and tell their friends to buy from you.

How are you listening to your customers?

Curt Fowler is an organizational growth expert and president of Fowler & Company, a business advisory firm dedicated to helping leaders create and achieve a compelling vision for their organization. He has an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA, and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and four children.

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About Curt Fowler

Curt Fowler is the President and Founder of Fowler & Company, a business advisory firm founded to help its clients maximize the value of their organizations. Curt is a Certified Public Accountant and earned his Masters in Accountancy from the University of Georgia. He also earned an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School at Northwestern. He has spent 20 years studying and learning from some of the best businesses in America including Verizon, Sara Lee, Cox Communications and many more.