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May 20, 2012


Do you have a listening process ?

by Tom De Baere

Photo by Melvin Gaal / Flickr

Yes I admit. Even in my personal life I pay attention to good and bad marketing. When I see a great advertisement, I think about how they did that. Or when I get a direct mailer, I pay attention to how they have written that text.

Some of these messages really give a reflection of great customer understanding.

Why is that ? Why do some brands seem to perfectly understand your needs, before you became a customer, and more impressive, they know what you want during your time as a customer of these brands ?

About brainstorm “guessing” sessions from vendors 

I bet when you as a marketer start designing a new product, you go through lots of complicated but necessary exercises to determine the needs of your buyers.

And eventually these products need to be brought to the market through a compelling marketing message. The marketing messages are usually created in long brainstorm sessions trying to guess what the problems of your buyers are, or trying to guess what your total value proposition should be about.

And the cliché is that in all these brainstorm sessions the ‘voice of the customer’ is absent, but hey, you know this much talked-about cliché.

Listening along the complete customer life-cycle

I assume you are a seasoned marketer: I take it that you already have a descent amount of “voice of the customer” in your product creation process.

But what exactly have you been listening to? To the buyer’s product requirements in terms of functionality, pricing, sales channel, etc ?

My point is, only listening to the product needs is too limited in today’s world.  Do you have a structured process that embeds ‘listening’ into everything you do as a company towards your customers?

And with a structured process I do not mean a yearly satisfaction survey that probes on how you are doing on price, logistics, service, etc.

One single listening process

Listening to customers is in many cases part of the work of the business development or marketing team.

I think the listening should be expanded to more teams of people within a company.

Does your…

  • Customer services department have a structured process to listen to the service needs of your customers?
  • HR department have structured process to listen to their internal customers?
  • Logistics department have a structured process to listen to the logistical needs of your customers ?
  • Communications department have a structured process to listen to the communication needs of your customers?
  • Financial department have a structured process to listen to the financial needs of your customers?

Having one single process that captures the needs of your customers along the complete customer life-cycle will give you an extremely rich insight into their needs.

Creating a stronger “Brand Promise”

By having such a listening process along the complete customer life-cycle, along all the touch-points they have with your company, you can better answer the needs of your customers.

Fulfill these needs along the complete customer life-cycle, and you will create a stronger brand promise. You’ll know exactly what they want, when they want it, how they want it.

Narrow down the gap between what you have today, and what your customers want, and you’ll be a winner!

Setting up your “listening” process

Would it not be so much easier and more effective to have a structured way of first listening and understanding, before we talk, communicate or even create products?

In a future post, I’ll put some thoughts forward to you on how you can design such a ‘listening’ process, across the complete customer life-cycle.

I hope you found this post inspirational. I would really like to hear from you if you have such a listening process.


Warm regards,

Tom De Baere