There's always been one line in Mike & the Mechanics' "The Living Years" that I just can't shake: You can listen as well as you hear. Simple, yet profound, this brief lyric applies to all elements of the human condition. From personal relationships to chance encounters, we all have the ability to hear, yet few observe the willingness to listen.Though the terms may appear interchangeable, hearing and listening refer to two entirely different actions. Those who hear may passively allow the words of another to flow in one ear and out the other without fully processing the speaker's meaning, while those who listen retain each thought and consider each element with empathy and purpose. However, as is the case with so many businesses, employees hear the customer, but fail to listen to the nature of the complaint or request.
Recently, on multiple occasions, my sister ordered a hamburger from one of our favorite local restaurants. While she requested a plain patty with explicit instructions to hold the cheese, those behind the counter neglected to listen and completed the order with the unwanted cheese atop the burger despite her request. It was not until the third visit that the cooks fulfilled the order correctly, albeit thanks to multiple statements emphasizing the words 'NO cheese' and 'plain'.
Of course, this particular example was far from severe. Though inconvenient, a few minor flubs in the 20 years we've been customers will certainly not deter our business, but the underlying sentiment may serve as a lesson for brands across industries.
Many larger companies employ analytics to collect and assess consumer data. These brands bring in information from an array of touchpoints to gain insight into the customer experience, yet they typically neglect to bring such knowledge to action. Collecting data and allowing it to remain stagnant resembles the act of hearing, for such companies recognize that customers may have something to say, but they fail to acknowledge their feedback through improvements and direct communication. However, those who translate the incoming data into actionable insight and introduce distinct change prove that such feedback does not go unnoticed. Such strategies, in turn, encourage engagement, cultivate loyalty, and strengthen trust as consumers can visibly see their input in action.
So say it loud and say it clear, for those companies that consistently put the customer first are those that demonstrate how useful such insights can be.