Collaborative Post

Why you should (and shouldn’t) listen to your customers


In 2020, it’s more important than ever before to listen to your customers. With customers now willing to pay a premium for better customer experience, successful businesses are starting to shift away from being competitively priced, and instead are focusing on adding more value.

One of the main sources of information on your own customer experience is feedback from your customers themselves, but there are times when you should – and shouldn’t – listen. We’ve explored some of these.

Why you should listen to your customers

Customer feedback is the best way of understanding your customer experience, their expectations and how well you meet their needs as a business. Feedback can be gathered from reviews, live chat and your customer services team, and should be regularly reviewed and collated to find any trends in both the strengths and weaknesses of your offering.

STR Capital online broker
STR Capital is an online platform. Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash

Here are some of the reasons why you should listen to your customers:

1. Gain powerful insights

No one knows your customer’s current wants and needs better than they do. While social listening tools and market research are helpful, customers’ needs tend to evolve over time, and the best way to understand what these are is by asking. By asking the right questions, you can help shape upsell opportunities, future products and complimentary services for your business, safe in the knowledge that they meet your customer’s needs.

2. Customers vote with their feet (and their wallets)

Ultimately, your customers have the power. And if they don’t feel listened to or understood, they may choose to spend their money with one of your competitors. American Express research showed that unhappy customers will tell an average of 15 others about a poor experience with your brand, so by not listening or by not making the appropriate improvements not only are you losing customers, you’re damaging your reputation, too.

3. Significant time, money and resources savings

Not only can customer feedback help you save time and resources on future product developments by sanity-checking or validating your ideas, but engaging with your customers can also save marketing resources. By speaking to your customers, acknowledging their frustrations and – crucially – acting on them, you can increase customer retention, brand loyalty and advocacy. Across your business, this will give you significant savings in money and resources, and allow you to focus on new customer acquisitions.

Why you shouldn’t listen to your customers

However, there are times where listening to your customers can be damaging. While we encourage you to always listen to your customers and make them feel heard and understood, there is a difference between listening and changing your strategy to accommodate all feedback. Here’s why:

1. Customers aren’t always right

Not only that, but it’s not their job to know what’s best for your business. Your customers will have a unique perspective on your offering that’s unlikely to match your own. Customers don’t always know what’s right, or they may struggle to articulate why it is that they want something. So while your customers highlighting fatal flaws in your product is absolutely essential and needs to be acted on, it’s not their job to create your business plan or product roadmap based on feedback alone.

2. Think majority vs minority

It’s really important to keep all customer feedback in perspective. While reoccurring issues with your product or regular requests for the same thing are important, you have to put all feedback into the perspective of your customer base. If one client or customer is shouting about something the loudest, it a) doesn’t mean that they’re right and b) doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of all of your other customers.

So, if 1% of your customers are frequently asking about something, put this into the perspective of the other 99% that aren’t. Keeping this in perspective, a majority might not be 51%. A majority (of active users or frequent purchasers, for example) may only be 10% of your entire customer base, so it’s important to work out who and where your majorities are, and prioritise this feedback accordingly.

While in the start-up stages of your business you may ask for regular product feedback, it’s important, as your business evolves to wean yourself off of this. This not only gives healthy boundaries to your customers (because you can’t run a business by making changes whenever they suggest something, and you can’t keep this level of customer expectation for 100% of your client base), but it stops you over-relying on customer feedback and, ultimately, opinions when making critical business decisions.

Last of all, for smaller businesses in particular, escalated customer feedback tends to take up a huge amount of executive and, sometimes, C-suite time. Again, it’s so important not to go off-track with your product or service to please a lone wolf or someone who is a repeated headache for your customer services team. Instead, focus your energy, efforts and resources towards your community – the large majority of people that you want your product or service to serve.

3. If you’re a leader…

Innovation is the lifeblood of many of the industry giants of today. Airbnb, Uber, Netflix and more have all challenged the norm, become disrupters in their respective industries, innovated and, because of this, have become household names and global leaders in the past decade.

In the famous words of Henry Ford: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ If you want to become a leader and really be ahead of the pack, your customers aren’t the best people to ask, and it’s not their responsibility to shape the future.

To conclude, customer feedback is critical to allow you to identify flaws in your product or service. And while feedback should form a part of your strategy when making decisions, ultimately your customer shouldn’t get to decide (or dictate) the future product roadmap for your business. While you should listen to all feedback and make your customers feel heard and acknowledged, be sure to keep it all in perspective and be confident, especially when innovating or disrupting a market.

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