How Good a Listener are You?

man-listening-hand-to-earKnowledge is power right? We can all agree on that. As such, knowing what the customer wants has been a source of power for as long as businesses have been around.

It’s interesting to look back at how customer knowledge was gained, who had access to it and how it was used.  Customer communications and that sacred consumer knowledge used to come from the sales department. The folks on the ground and in the trenches were talking to customers every day; getting feedback, hearing the complaints as well as the praises.

They would report back to HQ to say “I was talking to the customer and he says he won’t buy our product unless we add [insert feature here].” And so it went until market research came into vogue and started to survey customers and conduct focus groups.

For a time power swung over to those in charge of the website analytics (I once held that position) who talked to the C-levels about the search & click stream data, navigation paths and conversion points.


Social media is changing all that. Now, those who listen best control the power. They are tapped into the conversation and channel the voice of the consumer within the organization. They make it possible for the company to direct or influence the conversation.

Companies like Starbucks, Dell and McDonalds have gotten serious about social media listening posts. They have invested thousands of dollars into tools for capturing, segmenting and analyzing content. But tools alone aren’t enough.

They have also developed “listening strategies” and invested in the human resources required to manage the strategy.  Social media departments from 1 to 100’s of staff are now empowered to act on whatever comes up in the conversation be it customer service, responding to inquires, HR, prospecting, lead building, brand management, or crisis control.

The good news for small business is that you don’t have to spend thousands or have a team dedicated to social media; there are inexpensive and even free tools that do an excellent job or monitoring, tracking and reporting. What you do need to do though, is:

  • have a plan, and depending on the size of your company you will need to
  • task someone with this new and important function

Which leads us to my next blog post topic. Are you hiring employees or extensions of your brand?

If you would like to know more, Sage Internet and partner Chris Burdge (bWEST) can help you set-up a cost effective listening system and strategy. They also conduct regular training workshops dedicated to helping companies understand how to efficiently manage the system.

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