iStock photoI’m delighted to finally share our first guest blog post, here on Customer Insight Leader. Hopefully the first of many more, from writers on┬ácustomer insight & those using such insights.

Annette Franz takes the stand as our first guest blogger, with this reminder that listening to your customers is worth it:

That’s probably a silly question, but I don’t feel bad reminding anyone of the answer!

Last month, I took a little bit of a different angle to this question and asked, “What’s the cost of listening (or not listening) to customers?” In that post, I mentioned that if we don’t understand who our customers are, what jobs they are trying to do/achieve, and how well that’s going, then we reap none of the benefits of having raving fans – probably because we won’t have (m)any. So does it pay to listen?

That’s what execs want to know!

Understanding is key. Listening is critical. Acting is imperative.

In research published by Bain in 2005, they reported:

  • only 50% of management teams tailor their products and services to the needs of customers
  • only 30% organize the functions of their company to deliver superior customer experiences
  • only 30% maintain effective customer feedback loops

Sorry that those are 2005 numbers; I’ll update this if I find more-recent stats. For this post, the first bullet point is the one I’ll focus on. I know there’s this group of folks who subscribe to Steve Jobs’ perspective that the customer doesn’t know what he wants or needs, but I believe it doesn’t hurt to ask. And, as a matter of fact, it’s really a good thing – for customers and for the company.

In last month’s post, I shared this quote from Harvey Mackay: You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen – not just money, but respect. Ultimately, I think “you earn when you listen” is the best possible outcome you could imagine. I can’t think of anyone who would disagree. So let me give you a fun example of listening that led to earning.

Last year, Hasbro crowdsourced their next Monopoly character on Facebook by asking people to vote on which character would become the next game piece. In the end, the iron game piece got the boot, and the cat was voted in, bringing pet lovers to parity; dog lovers already had their game piece.

So what did listening to customers do for them? Did it pay in the end? According to a USA Today article, Hasbro saw revenue growth in their games category and called the Monopoly character contest “tremendously successful.” Apparently they’re also crowdsourcing other changes to Monopoly as well as changes to other games. Is this the sole reason for their revenue growth; only they know. But what I do know is that it’s a great way to (a) listen to the wants, needs, and preferences of your customers and (b) engage your customers.

If you’re still building your business case for executives to help them understand that it does pay to listen to the customer, make sure you show how your efforts tie to business outcomes – show how listening and learning really do allow you to earn. When you earn customer respect, you will earn shareholder respect, too.

I’ll leave you with the commercial that Hasbro used to announce the new game piece. (Yea, I love that they closed the loop with customers, too!) I’m a cat lover, so this makes me laugh every time I watch it. But the message in the last few seconds doesn’t get lost on me.

[embedyt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_yL5KeNtUQ[/embedyt]
This may seem simple, but you need to give customers what they want, not what you think they want. And, if you do this, people will keep coming back.” John Ilhan, Crazy John’s