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25 TH ANNIVERSARY

The importance of always listening to your customers – 5 things to listen closely

“Listen to the customer” is one of the most used phrases when talking about successful businesses.  When I hear this bumper sticker wisdom I tend to question does the orator really understand the meaning of understanding customers? Successful businesses can only be based on happy customers that you cannot create without the art of listening. But what are the most important things you should be listening? Here is my short list of things I con-sider most valuable for driving my business.

1-Listen were to focus - “If you don’t listen, you cannot understand.  If you don´t under-stand, you cannot make progress.”
Focusing your evaluation correctly requires understanding the customer’s situation and on your ability to consider the right emphasis on right things. This understanding is crucial when discussing customer satisfaction. Your success as a certifier depends on how well you can bring this knowhow to the evaluation process. You must be able to produce findings that support the customer’s business goals. If you don’t listen, you cannot under-stand. If you don´t understand, you cannot make progress.
 
2- Listen to expectations - “The goal should be to first identify these expectations and then perform according to them.”
Your service experience level depends on the customers’ expectations. If you exceed expectations, your service is considered excellent. This creates a situation where expectations rise and you need to perform even better next time. This is expensive and some-times unnecessary. On the other hand, if you perform lesser than expected, your customer is unhappy. The goal should be to first identify these expectations and then per-form according to them. We as certifiers set the minimum standard requirement level but not the maximum. All customers are not alike, and they don’t expect the same service level. When you understand this, you see that it is an opportunity.
 
3- Listen to service experience feedback - Without listening you cannot take proper care of your customers.”
You should listen to customers’ satisfaction levels and how happy they are with your service experience. Without listening you cannot take proper care of your customers. When you aim to respond to customer expectations, you have to know how good you are at every service step. Sometimes this requires you to identify those steps and think how you could perform better in customer touchpoints. For this you need to model the service process and discuss with the customer how you could improve it.
 
4- Listen to customers hidden needs - “If you don’t listen, get ready for price and profitability drop.”
As certifiers we take a trip to the customer’s core business. By listening carefully, you can identify new possibilities to offer additional services. It is important to ask the customer what challenges he faces daily.  If you identify these challenges, you can offer solutions. Some say this is selling,
I say it is caring for customers by solving their problems. There is also a link from profitability to listening. With the right service offering and level you can justify your price lev-el. This enables profitable business. If you don’t listen, get ready for price and profitability drop.
 
5- Listen why the customer needs a certificate - “Only by listening you can identify what drives your customers business.”
The credibility of certification is based on listening to the customer and his current situation. Only by listening you can identify what drives your customers’ business. You should know where your service fits in the value creation process. What value does it bring to the customer and to his customer? If you don’t listen, you cannot understand how the certificate helps drive the customers’ business goals.
The success of our certification activities demands that we take listening the customer seriously. We should listen genuinely, continuously. We cannot just not our heads and pretend – we have to listen; thus we know that it is the lifeline of our future success.
 
I hope that we systematically try to understand our customers and not settle for empty phrases. Our credibility depends on it. After all, we need to show that we offer more than a festive certificate on the wall.

Tomi Kasurinen

CEO Inspecta Certification

Inspecta Sertifiointi Oy
Porkkalankatu 13 G
00180 Helsinki
Finland
www.inspecta.com