Impact Learning Systems


Hear and Understand Peggy Carlaw

istock 000001238994tiny understandign girl1 Hear and UnderstandCSAT, 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.

Peggy Car­law is the founder of Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, a lead­ing train­ing com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in improv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between front-line employ­ees and cus­tomers. Peggy is co-author of sev­eral books pub­lished by McGraw-Hill, includ­ing Man­ag­ing and Moti­vat­ing Con­tact Cen­ter Employ­ees and The Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games.
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Peggy Carlaw
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