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Small Business Development Center
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

Listening good for business, customer

April 10, 2014

Last week I had the privilege of listening to a successful local entrepreneur speak about the reasons for his success and the success of his companies.

He reminded us of the importance of listening to your customers, to give them what they want and need with value to them and a profitable relationship for the business. How do you listen to your customers? Below is a brief discussion on how business owners can listen and take action.

First of all, it is difficult to listen to our customers by sitting behind a desk or by avoiding customer contact. We need to get out there among the customers and ask about their needs and experiences with our business. Then, of course, we need to listen carefully and ponder on the feedback we receive. Can we provide what they need and do it profitably? If not, then we need to see what it would take to provide it and still stay within the capabilities of the business.

We need to stand in our customers’ shoes whenever possible to try to see things from their eyes and perspective. This may be hard for some, but once you improve on seeing things from your customer’s eyes, the insights you receive are extremely helpful. One way I used to do this in a business I ran was to work in what I thought was the “hub” of the operation. From that vantage point, I could experience firsthand most things my customers were going through. What an eye opener. My observations always led to positive changes and it also enabled me to recognize employees who were taking care of customers.

Take time to systematically record your observations and comments from customers. That way, you can spot patterns. Unless it is compelling you do not want to make knee jerk changes because of a single, or a few, comments or observations. Recording will allow you to see over a period of time consistent observations or comments.

Also take time to ask your front line employees about their observations and comments from customers. They are face to face with customers every day and your interest in what they are hearing and observing will help them see you are serious about listening to your customers. They may also be able to make suggestions on how to improve things in favor of the customer, and instill in them the importance of listening and learning from customers.

Work on getting closer to your customers and focus on what they are telling you. Then see if your business can provide it profitably and with value to your customer. It will surely lead to more business success.

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    Dave Erickson, ASU-SBDC Director and CBA IV

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