Are You Actually Listening to Your Customers? Three Ways You Can Do It

Larry Alton

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It's easy to assume that you have everything under control within the four walls of your company. However, when it comes to the tech industry, few things are more dangerous than assuming you know it all. The marketplace is talking—are you listening?

There's Value in Being Quiet

Talk to enough founders of failed businesses, and you'll come to the conclusion that a lack of success in the business world is often tied directly to a company's inability or unwillingness to listen to its customers. This idea was the case for Angus Murray, founder of frozen yogurt brand Foxy's.

Murray believes that not listening to his customers almost killed his business from the start. He and his team made broad assumptions about what their target market was looking for. "By trying to imagine what customers wanted, I had thought I could escape actually asking them," he recalls. That was not the case. It wasn't until he started listening that the company discovered what worked. Today, customers can find Foxy's products in more than 500 stores in the United Kingdom and Asia.

Murray isn't the only entrepreneur who has discovered the value in listening. Margo Morrison, owner and creator of Margo Morrison New York, has discovered firsthand the danger of becoming too self-absorbed in what you're doing.

"What's really important when you're running a company and a business and you're in the marketplace is to not fall in love with your designs to the point where you're unwilling to be flexible with what the market is asking for," Morrison tells Brandboom.

While your pain points are different than Murray's and Morrison's, learning from their experiences will help you recognize the value in listening to your customers.

How do you do it? Here are three practical strategies:

1. Use Social Listening Tools

Social media is a powerful resource for modern businesses. You don't need anyone to tell you this. But what you may not realize is how helpful social media can be as a platform for organically gathering customer feedback.

"Quite simply, if you're not engaged in social media listening, you're creating your business strategy with blinders on," marketing expert Christina Newberry writes. "You're missing out on mountains of actionable insights from real people who are actively talking about you or your industry online. Why wouldn't you want to listen to them?"

The best part about social listening is that there are a variety of tools you can use to streamline the process. Here's a list of some of the best ones.

2. Gather Formal Feedback

There's something powerful about the organic nature of social listening, but there's also a time and a place for gathering formal feedback via surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. Be sure to sprinkle this feedback in when possible.

3. Use Customer Service and Sales Reps

Finally, you can learn a lot by meeting with your customer service agents and sales representatives. These are the folks who are on the frontlines of your business and have their fingers on the pulse of your customers. They understand their pain points, recognize friction, and have a good grasp on what makes your target market happy. Pay these people well and get them to develop regular reports and updates for your team.

It's Time to Listen Up

Are you listening to your customers? If you're listening, are you being intentional about how you collect information? By leaning in and hearing what your customers have to say, you can reject your own biases and nudge your business forward so it can get where it needs to be.

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.