Listening is a skill that most people don’t posses.
Anyone can hear a complaint or a recommendation to improve your business. Most everyone can understand what it is being said. Few people will actually have the ability to relate what they just heard to their business, create a plan of action to implement what is needed, and have the humility to recognize that an outside opinion may be right.
Listening conflicts with a person’s innate need to put themselves above others.
There are three secrets to effective listening:
- Ensure there are two willing parties to the conversation. Not everyone who provides feedback wants an answer or even to be listened. Many of the complaints filed are simply a cathartic move to release frustration. You should still listen to it, but prioritize who you will listen to first. If you focus on comments that call for specific change pr action you will find the highest return on listening investment.
- Focus on the message, not the function of communicating. The message is what is worth listening to, not the channel on which it is transmitted. You should seek feedback in as many different ways as possible, even venture into new channels (such as social media) to gather feedback. That simply provides two participants and a common channel, that is the easy part. Focus on the content of the message instead of the act, you will get better results.
- Determine a specific action to take, and implement it. Research has shown that less than five percent of companies act on feedback they receive. Doing something about the feedback received, also called closing the loop, is very hard. The organization has to acknowledge they could do things better and to determine steps to take (from the strategic as well as feasibility sides) to accommodate the feedback. And implement it. And make sure it works as expected. Customer engagement increases dramatically for companies that close the loop versus those that don’t.
It is critical that the right people be put where listening, and acting, is required.
Do you know the right person in your organization?