“Listening” versus “communicating”
How often have you heard that it is important for a company to “listen to its customers”? That would be hard to dispute, but listening is only part of it. In order for a company to be really successful, it must engage in regular, two-way communication with its customers.
A company must listen to customers so that it understands things like:
- what pain they are experiencing
- what they have tried in order to solve their pain
- what they consider good value for a solution they purchase
- what feedback they have on the company’s product after they have bought it
A company must speak to customers to tell them things like:
- what the company heard from them
- how the company’s products address their problems
- why the company’s approach is the best
- what they can expect from the company in the future
Some companies don’t believe in telling customers anything about their future product plans. That’s an opportunity lost because the more a company treats its customers like a true partner, the more loyal those customers will become.
The conventional argument against sharing too much about future plans is that doing so makes life too easy for the company’s competitors. Such thinking betrays an insecurity — if the company were really confident in its unmatched understanding of the customer, its superior ability to develop innovative ideas, and its unparalleled ability to execute, it wouldn’t be so reluctant to share openly with its customers.
How companies communicate today
The internet has been as transformational for a company’s ability to interact with its customers as it has been for so many other things. Now there is a wealth of options for realtime, two-way communication.
Of course, a web site is essential. A professional and attractive web presence is the minimum ante required of any organization that expects to be viewed as a “real company” by its customers. Web content tools and technologies have come so far that maintaining a web presence and keeping the content on it “fresh” has never been easier.
Typically, the web site serves as the primary vehicle for distributing the most up-to-date information about the company. But now the web site is as useful for inbound communication as it is for outbound communication. By incorporating an interactive blog, the company can enable a straightforward and easy-to-use mechanism for customers to provide direct feedback.
More and more companies are including Facebook in their marketing campaigns, with some running expensive promotions to accumulate “Likes” by users. The popularity of Facebook among younger users makes it essential as a way to reach a more youthful demographic.
Once the company achieves real sales traction, finding a scalable way to disseminate information to a large number of customers becomes very important. Twitter fits this role very nicely.
Despite the fact that, as a technology, email has been around for almost two decades, it still remains a very powerful arrow in the company’s quiver. Not only does it serve as a scalable mechanism for outbound communication to customers, but it also provides an efficient, documentable way for customers to submit support requests and information.
At LightArrow, we have found that doing all of these things helps to make us the best company we can be. But, we go even further. For instance, we allow our users to comment on any of the product pages of our web site. We feel this level of openness with our customers is essential if they are going to feel like we value their feedback and trust them to provide it. And not only do we share our future plans, we share our product roadmap, complete with target dates. This gives our customers confidence that we will continue to innovate, and that their faith in us and their investment in our product are well-placed.
Of course, if our customers ever come up with an idea for a way to communicate with us that we’re not already using, we’re all ears!