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Hear and Understand - Peggy Carlaw - Blog

Hear and Understand

UnderstandingCSAT, VOC, CRM, now SCRM. Who's listening to the customer? These days, who isn't listening? At Impact, our guiding beacon in driving our customers' experience is the HEART Model™. Many of our customers have also adopted this model because it provides them with five easy-to-remember principles that balance the best interests of the customer with the best interests of the business and its employees. The first principle is Hear and Understand. Employing this principle directly and positively impacts customer satisfaction, employee morale, and operational costs. How you apply this principle depends on where you are in the organization.
  • Executives

The good news is that customers are back in the picture. We want to know what they think and we want to know how to please them in a way that adds to the bottom line. Technology vendors are jumping on the bandwagon to provide more tools with which to listen to the customer—tools like speech recognition technology to listen for key words and social CRM to monitor the voice of the customer through social media channels.

These tools are invaluable in collecting data, but what do you do with that data? Many companies are aggregating it, hiring consultants to interpret it, holding executive meetings to discuss it, and then continuing with business mostly as usual while they pat themselves on the back that they're a customer-centric organization because they've listened to their customers. Not so fast! There's no point in hearing and understanding your customers if you aren't willing to act on what you hear. Being truly customer-centric requires change, not lip service.

Stepping up and making changes based on hearing and understanding your customers' needs pays off big time, however. A Booz Allen study showed that those companies willing to walk their customer-concentric talk outperformed industry peers 2:1 in revenue growth and generated profit margins 5-10% above their competitors.

  • Managers

Customers want to deal with pleasant, efficient employees who show concern for the customer and his or her issues. So if you want to have happy customers, you need happy employees. Happy employees love their job and it comes through in their dealings with customers-in the quality of their work, in their tone of voice, in their interest in hearing and understanding the customer, and in their willingness to solve customer issues. You all know the research: money motivates, but only to a point. After that, it's whether employees are treated fairly, whether they're listened to, whether their opinions are valued, and whether they're recognized that matters.

The members of your team look to you for encouragement and support. In order to provide this to them, you need to do more than listen; you need to understand what they say and feel. You need to appreciate their perspectives. You do this by asking for their input, by listening with your full attention, and by praising their good ideas. This gives them confidence that they're making valuable contributions to the organization—contributions that are not going unnoticed.

  • Customer-facing Employees

Almost every customer-facing employee at one time or another has made an assumption about what a customer wanted (because the call sounded like 476 other calls) that turned out to be wrong. To truly hear and understand what customers are saying, employees need to listen carefully and then check their comprehension of what they've heard. If employees do this, their calls will be easier to handle and shorter, too. Shorter calls mean improved customer satisfaction and reduced cost of operations.

I spoke with a customer yesterday who said that by embracing the principle of Hear and Understand, taught in one of our training programs, her support reps were better able to identify the customers stated concerns. This directly resulted in decreased escalations and improved first-call resolution, both of which improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs.

Changing the culture of an organization from one that espouses customer-centricity to one that puts it into practice-and reaps the rewards-is not easy. But by adopting the HEART Model as one of the building blocks for cultural transformation, you will measurably improve customer satisfaction and employee morale while reducing organizational costs. (originally posted on )

Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:50 PM

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