In earlier posts we’ve focused on how important employees and products are to ensuring the business is aligned to your customers.  In this post, we’ll look at how communication helps your company align with customers.

  1. Listen and Understand the ‘Need’ – Technology companies often miss this piece.  Very ‘cool’ technology that doesn’t meet a need will not be turned into revenue.  Recognize that the ‘need’ will be different depending on the audience.  The user may need new features; the buyer may need different contractual terms.  But each of these elements (and more) makes up the total experience and must be considered.  It sometimes helps to map the customer experience from the first interaction (e.g. learning about you via billboard, website, radio jingle, etc.) to the purchase point, to the point after which they’ve made a purchase and need to receive ongoing support.
  2. Respond – I’d never advocate doing everything your customers ask (rejection is good in business) but you should respond in some way.  Some companies set up automatic mechanisms where the feedback is self-evident (for example, online voting where results are visible).  Customers know that a certain number of votes are required before an idea is considered and learn not to expect anything for unpopular (read: not profitable) ideas.
  3. Follow-Through – The most-missed step.  Your brand relies on integrity, just ask Congressman Weiner.  Your company can’t afford to agree to change and remain stagnant.  If it does, there’s no point in listening in the first place.
  4. (Optional:  Claim Credit) – Dizzy Dean is often attributed with saying “it ain’t braggin’ if you done it.”  If you listen to your customers and use their feedback to change some aspect of your company, make sure you (1) thank them and (2) point out how responsive you were.)

The pivot point is that to align your company to your customers, it must start with a commitment to listening, and then continue with a commitment to doing.  Companies that omit Step 3 become known for listening and ignoring (a shaky pillar indeed).

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