5 Steps To Becoming a Better Listener

August 19, 2015 Jeffrey Hayzlett

In business, one of the most important things we need to learn how to do is listen. If we fail at this simple, yet somewhat overlooked, task we put our business in danger. It's as simple as that. 

When marketers attempt to communicate with their customer base, they will receive honest feedback in return, or should expect to. That communication exchange is what prompted many companies to create a new position: the Chief Listening Officer. While a CMO at Kodak, I was one of the first to include a CLO in my c-suite. What customers say about your brand is a vital part of your organization - you gotta take in the good with the bad and the ugly. It will benefit you and your brand in the long run.

Social media listening is more than counting positive or negative sentiment or responding to customer complaints. The same goes for the role of the Chief Listening Officer. The CLO is the bridge that not only brings together customers and the c-suite but also facilitates the social media discussion in the boardroom. This ensures every department understands the importance of social media engagement and their collective role in making this part of the business a success.

The CLO should have the ability to sift through mountains of big data, understand ROI and have excellent data modeling skills. Analytical skills are an essential part of the job as well, but they must also be creative enough to uncover patterns in data. In short, they know exactly what they're looking for and how they need to present that data to the people who make the decisions. 

Here are 5 tips to help your business or organization, or even yourself, become a better "listener."

Set Goals but Don't Kill the Conversation Before it Starts

Know what you're looking for. As any business executive worth their salt knows, you need to go in prepared every single time. Being unprepared is not an option. Having a clear plan about what you hope to accomplish before going in will help you stay on point, and avoid tangents that may or may not solve the problem at hand. Having said that, you must go in with an open-mind. If you tune out your customers when they offer negative feedback, you won't be solving the problem. You'd just be putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. Besides, where else will you get honest feedback outside of social media, forums or blogs? Focus groups are a thing of the past. Get with the times. 

Leave the Judging to Judge Judy 

Don't judge! When your customers come to you with an idea on how to fix something that may not be working or offer suggestions about how to improve your product or brand, don't be so quick to shut them down. You got to suck it up and LISTEN! Let them explain to you how they view a certain situation and hold back any form of criticism until all is said and done. By no means confuse letting them speak with agreement. You are free to disagree, but it should be a company's best practice to never shut a customer down. Whether your customers are evangelists or critics of your brand, they will tell their friends and followers, so be careful about ignoring your customer's advice. Word of mouth may be old school, but it still packs a punch!

Identify Trends and Insights

Businesses who focus only on their own followers or 'fans,' are doing it wrong. How will your business survive in the long haul if all you monitor are your own brands? Not to mention, what's the point of doing it the easy way? If that's your take, then you shouldn't be in business! In my upcoming book, Think Big, Act Bigger The Rewards of Being Relentless, I talk about there being no substitute for hard work. It's called hard work because it's hard. You need to see past your own nose in order to spot the trends that are happening in your industry. Otherwise, you are at risk of becoming a dinosaur. 

When conducting research about your products or brands, you have to know your competitor's products almost as well as yours. You need to become a news hound and network like crazy if you're going to spot key industry trends. Staying current will help you take in the pulse of your brand. Step out of your comfort zone and take a risk. 

Remember Limitations

It seems like everyone's on social media, but sometimes there comes a stark realization that not everyone uses social media. Despite its worldwide popularity, there are a few people that prefer to be informed through other ways outside of social media. You must reach those customers, too. As I mentioned before, word of mouth is still quite powerful. You must be able to gather information from other sources in order to build a complete picture of your target demographic. If your strategy involves Twitter, make sure there is an audience to engage with. Otherwise, you're just in a vacuum wasting time and in business, time is money. 

Listening Organizations Are The Future

Social media isn't going anywhere any time soon. Investing in someone who is tech savvy and can muddle through all the noise in order to bring sound and concise improvements to your brand is something every company should do, or should seriously consider. Not only that, but investing in social listening tools like OneQube are necessary, too. A business without a constant social media presence is at a huge disadvantage. Traditional marketers who refuse to join the social media revolution will be left eating the dust of their competitors.

While I was one of the first to bring the Chief Listening Officer position into the c-suite, it is still not commonplace. However, I expect this trend to change in the very near future. For now, we have Social Media Managers and this is a good stepping stone for becoming a member of the c-suite in the not so distant future, but they need to brush up on their data modeling skills. By having Social Media Managers in your midst, marketers already have a leg up in understanding the amounts of real-time information coming from customers, something marketers have never seen before.

We're all inundated with all kinds of social media sites, so it can be incredibly difficult to cut through the sometimes overwhelming online noise. However, if we're to stay on pace with this rapidly changing industry, businesses must invest in someone who will take them into the future. It can be a scary position to be in, but you have to take that chance or get left behind.

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