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Customer listening programs for better CX

14 min read
Great customer experiences are the result of a back-and-forth dialogue between brand and customers. Customer listening is an effective tool to capture customer views and transform them into insights and action to encourage loyalty and brand advocacy. Read on to learn how to develop and implement a customer listening program that will take your CX to new heights.

Author: Rosemin Anderson

Subject matter expert: Adam Janes

What is customer listening?

Customer listening is the act of seeking out, collecting and analyzing feedback and experiences from customers on how they feel about your brand, your products, your services and the overall customer experience. It can encompass data from multiple sources, such as customer service channels, social media platforms, surveys and more. Effective listening can help you to improve customer satisfaction, understand customer behavior, make effective changes to your offering for better brand perception and business results.

Free guide: Reimagining omnichannel CX in the age of AI

Customer listening vs. traditional market research

Capturing the voice of the customer can seem more labor-intensive than just sourcing market research, but it’s well worth the effort. Though traditional market research can be helpful to give you a broad view of what your customers think and feel or to deep dive into a specific topic, asking your customers what they think in the moment can be far more valuable.

Market research studies quickly become outdated, whereas real-time customer listening enables you to use feedback to draw actionable insights, make effective changes to how you operate and quickly measure the impact of these changes. Real-time listening also helps identify emerging issues and surface unknown information.

Customer listening data sources

Your customer listening data can come from a variety of sources. With the right customer listening approach, you’re able to capture a range of insights and build a holistic view of your customers’ experience.

For example, you might collect:

Solicited and unsolicited customer data

Solicited data is information that you directly request from customers, such as survey responses. Unsolicited data includes information from social media platforms, third party review sites and more to add to your data pool.

Quantitative and qualitative customer data

Quantitative data can be counted or measured, and includes survey scores, review scores or any other quantified data about the customer or their experience. It is more objective in nature.

Qualitative data is language-based, and is more subjective in nature. Text responses to surveys or reviews, or transcriptions of calls or webchats, are a good example of this type of data

Structured and unstructured customer data

Structured data is information that has been stored in a specific format that’s consistent. This might include customer purchase data in a spreadsheet, for example.

Unstructured data is information that has been created in a natural way without having a specific structure. This could take the form of customer complaints made in a call, or social media posts.

Mature customer listening programs combine all these elements into a real-time, 360 view of the end to end customer journey.

What are the benefits of listening to customers?

Your customers are the main source of authentic, relevant data on what they want from your brand, how they feel about their experiences with your brand, and what they expect from your products and services. There are many benefits to listening to your customers, including:

Improved customer satisfaction

When you listen to your customers’ views and opinions and make changes accordingly to your offering and experiences, you’re able to better meet and exceed their expectations. Customers who have great experiences that are personalized to their needs and preferences are more likely to feel highly satisfied, and more likely to recommend your products and services to others. Bad experiences put 6.7% of your revenue – a total of $3.1 trillion globally – at risk . Listening to customers can help you to avoid that eventuality.

Customer satisfaction gauge

Deeper customer loyalty

When customers enjoy their experiences, they’re much more likely to return to your brand for more, and recommend your brand to their friends and family. Developing customer loyalty is easier when you know what customers need and want from their experiences. Customer listening helps you understand how you are doing now, to design a service proposition for better experiences and ultimately measure your progress to achieving that goal.

Better business outcomes

With more loyal, more satisfied customers, you can expect improved business outcomes. Better still, by collecting and analyzing customer data and feedback, you can predict customer actions more easily, meaning you’re able to plan ahead more accurately. Equipping your team with insights about customer preferences means they can make more accurate choices when responding to customer queries, developing products and more.

Creating an effective customer listening strategy

Creating a customer listening strategy that works effectively for your needs requires planning and cross-department coordination. Developing a holistic approach to customer listening allows you to surface deep insights into your customers’ motivations and wants, and take the appropriate action to meet and exceed their expectations more of the time.

Selecting the appropriate customer listening tools

Your customer listening data should be fed into a customer experience management platform that can automatically detect commentary, surface insights and deliver actions to the right teams at the right time. Rather than capturing narrow customer data on an individual channel or platform, a comprehensive customer listening tool will bring all data together and provide in-depth analysis in real time.

Defining the objectives and goals of customer listening

Without understanding the end objectives and goals for your customer listening program, it’s difficult to set out an effective strategy. Goals you might have could include:

Designing for action and reporting

Simply collecting customer feedback via customer listening is a good first step, but to reap the full benefits of gathering feedback, it’s best to create a strategy designed for surfacing insight and taking action.

Removing technological silos and integrating data from across your business will help to maximize the insight generated and therefore the action you can take. Ensure your dashboards are easily accessible by the relevant teams, with reports providing not only information, but actions to be taken that are automatically disseminated to your relevant team members.

Illustration of two people with charts

Identifying key customer touchpoints with journey mapping

Customer journey mapping allows you to map their journey to identify where to listen and subsequently where to take action to drive the most value. With feedback collected across multiple customer touchpoints, you can make changes that can greatly improve the flow of the customer journey, reducing friction and increasing the likelihood that customers will return, repurchase, and recommend. Creating an initial customer journey map and adding more detail with customer listening data will help you to develop an experience that not only meets expectations, but stands out.

Using personas to identify the right channels

Not all customers are the same, as your customer listening will likely demonstrate. Creating personas for types of customer that interact with your website, social channels and business at large will help you to define which channels and offerings should be directed at each audience group. Your customer listening data can help to flesh out these personas and build an accurate picture for each.

Creating a survey program (transactional, relationship, and general)

Surveys, while no longer seen as the single source of truth, are a useful tool only when delivered in a way that feels natural and convenient. A conversational approach on the customer’s channel of choice, when deployed at the right moment, can still be a highly effective way to collect feedback without being disruptive.

Types of surveys you might use include:

  • Transactional: This type of survey measures the reaction to a specific customer interaction, either close to the completion of an interaction (e.g. making a payment) or at the end of a journey (e.g.returning home after a trip) .
  • Relationship/Relational: This type of survey measures how your customer feels about your organization, services or products, sent to customers at a scheduled time but not linked to an interaction (e.g. sent to a subset of customers every quarter) or consistently (e.g. sent to customers 3 months before their contract ends).

Monitoring social media and online reviews

Customers will share their views on platforms you don’t control, meaning it’s important to use customer listening tools on social media channels and online review sites. Third party comments about your brand, but not directed at your brand, can be very useful in determining exactly how customers view you, your products and your services.

Collecting customer feedback from other internal channels

Your customers will often provide feedback themselves unprompted when getting in touch with your contact center. Using text and audio analysis to pick out useful information and collate it with the other data you’ve collected can help you to pinpoint problem areas and understand drivers behind them.

Market research approaches, such as customer interviews and focus groups

Sometimes, you will need more direct feedback from your audience. Customer interviews, held one-on-one, or focus groups can help you to ask specific questions about customer intent, emotion, sentiment and more. These approaches can help to illuminate more nuance in responses than you might get from your survey data, for example.

Best practices for effective customer listening

Here are some recommended best practices for your customer listening strategy that will ensure you don’t miss out on vital information as you strive to improve customer satisfaction.

Keep evolving your customer listening strategy

Businesses often rely on customer feedback surveys to listen to their customers, but this is not the only source of truth for customer sentiment. Customers are more likely to share their views on the channels of their choice, at a time that suits them, in a way that feels natural. Providing multiple avenues for feedback and keeping it conversational will help you to gather better information at a broader scale.

Many businesses don’t update their listening channels regularly, meaning that many of their customers seem the same surveys and requests for feedback often and they quickly become wallpaper. Keeping your feedback channels fresh, by reviewing and reducing non-essential questions, by updating branding and look and feel, by highlighting to customers the action you’ve taken on their feedback, will keep your listening program fresh and keep your customers engaged.

Incentivize customers to provide feedback

Demonstrating that changes have been made as a result of feedback helps to keep the feedback loop open and encourages customers to continue to give their input. But sometimes you may need to encourage customers to leave their feedback to ensure you have a comprehensive view of different customer types and the journeys they take with your brand.

Incentivizing customers through offers, discounts and prize draws will encourage more customers provide feedback and will ensure you’re not just getting feedback from the most engaged customers, or those that have had the best or worst experiences.

Taking action based on feedback and incentivising feedback will make sure your audience understands that they are rewarded for providing feedback and that is put to good use.

Ensure you capture feedback across all channels

Modern customer listening programs synthesize all sources into a 360 degree view of customer experience. Rather than relying on singular, siloed channels to collect feedback, the data gathered is fed into a CX management tool that can pull out insights based on a broader range of input. Combining the feedback you collect and including data from all your channels means you get the deepest understanding of what your customers care about and what you need to do to retain them. Evaluate calls, chats, emails, social media posts and more to dig deep into customer motivations, emotions, intent and sentiment.

Close the loop to keep customers engaged and informed

The best way to ensure your customers know you’re listening to their feedback is to take action on their feedback. This includes closing the loop with customers when they have had a bad experience and informing them when you have made changes as a result of their feedback. Sending an informative email or announcing changes on social media can help to close the feedback loop, encouraging a reciprocal relationship between you and your customers. The more they understand that their feedback makes a difference, the more likely it is that they will continue to provide feedback in the future.

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The importance of customer listening in CX programs cannot be understated. Without feedback from your customers as they move through your planned journeys, your brand is unable to take data-driven action.

As customers increasingly use unstructured feedback channels such as social media to express their views, and with a decline in surveys’ efficacy as the sole source of truth, your customer experience management tools need to be more effective than ever.

Read our eBook on The Future of CX now to understand customer listening’s place in the creation of unmissable customer experiences.

Free guide: Reimagining omnichannel CX in the age of AI