Three Ways For Manufacturers to REALLY Listen to Their Customers

We all know it’s easier to keep and grow good customers, but just how much is a loyal customer worth?

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Furthermore, news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.

The good news is both large and small B2B and B2C companies have begun to mine for direct customer insights to better the customer experience, investing thousands and tens of thousands of dollars every year in software and personnel to hear/read what’s being said about their company, products, and services. The bad news is too many companies are simply stalking their customers, collecting data just to collect data, with little time and effort put into making sense of it all.

Just as a great salesperson engages with, analyzes, and acts upon direct customer feedback, the data you obtain from your customers should be collected and analyzed correctly, shared company-wide, and put to immediate use in moving your business forward.

In order to reach that level of understanding you have to stop stalking and start really listening.

Bolivar J. Bueno, founder and managing partner of The Cult Branding Company said,

“Years of research have revealed that the single most important factor that separates the good companies from the great companies—Adidas from Nike, Kawasaki from Harley-Davidson, Hewlett-Packard from Apple—is the ability to listen to their customers. And dominant organizations are those that can discern meaning from the information given.”
–Bolivar J. Bueno

Bueno outlined five important steps in effective listening.

1. Understanding the unconscious—Understanding that the vast majority of human experience, communication, and thought take place on an unconscious level. Listen to what is being said and what is being left unsaid.

2. Harness humanistic drivers—What needs are at play when they engage with you? Think Maslow’s Hierarchy. Only by satisfying those needs will you attract and retain customers.

3. Access archetypal images—Symbols, pictures, and iconography speak directly to your customer’s psyche. What images are resonating with your customers and why?

4. Check cultural narratives—Listening to your customers means identifying the cultural narratives most relevant to your audience so that you can craft messaging they’re predisposed to hear. Through what lens are they viewing you?

5. Aggregate and align—The better we know our customers, the more equipped we are to listen to them. The better we listen, the easier it is to serve our customers’ wants and needs efficiently and effectively—often before our customers know what they want or need.

Think about all the opportunities you have to solicit feedback from your customer. And while it’s not easy, it is so necessary. Whether you identify your customer as another manufacturer, a distributor or the end consumer, you are leaving money on the table if you aren’t listening to your customer.

You have to get personal. Here are three tips for really listening to your customer:

1. Face-to-face interaction is best—Regardless of whether you are a B2B or B2C company, start thinking of ways to have in-person conversations/interactions with your customer like scheduling in-person visits or inviting them to tour your plant/facility.

2. Make use of technology—For customers who are not local or where travel is a barrier, get technology involved. Schedule virtual meetings and win the customer journey online by taking a good look at your digital presence and online marketing.

3. Create a community—Ask your customers to join your community through use of e-Newsletters and social media platforms. Take it a step further and ask them to join you for a special event. Or better yet, plan your own event and encourage your customers to come and meet one another.

Remember, customer feedback is a two-way street. Collecting data that serves to simply understand levels of customer satisfaction are worthless unless there are some measurable actions taken as a result. Use that data to inform improvements to your customer experience and turn them into loyal brand advocates that crave the customer experience you deliver.

See more posts about Customer Experience

About the author:

Melinda Morella-Olson

Melinda Morella-Olson is Imaginasium's director of strategic engagement. She is responsible for uncovering client needs and matching them with Imaginasium’s capabilities. Melinda is also instrumental in developing the strategic partnerships and marketing strategies that help Imaginasium connect with prospective clients.   @MelMorella.