Word of mouth--new???

Today it is becoming a trend to utilize customers’ word of mouth only now it is more like fingertips to eyeballs using Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Social media is this acclaimed “brand new thing” that sells better than any other kind of advertising…if one can use it correctly. That takes listening to what the customer wants and supplying that solution. Anyone who cut their sales eyeteeth on Zig Zigler tapes (before CDs) or Brian Tracy books had this basic concept embedded in the fibers of their being. But that's old stuff... or is it?

Brian Solis uses the example of Zappos which began something “new” in his book End of Doing Business As Usual. Zappos started listening to their customers and their sales rocketed from $32 million to $174 million in two years. It was all due to listening to their customers, providing what they needed, and making customer service a top priority. People began to talk, and spread the word so more customers began to buy. Amazing. Boomers remember the days when this was standard procedure. Gen-Xers never had the pleasure.

Zappos made sure to have a clear understanding of what the customer wanted. Then it became crystal clear that without that, no one would ever be satisfied. Old customers, new customers, old prospects, and new prospects were paid close attention. Zappos knew if you don’t pay attention, then you’ve got a disappointed, unsatisfied person who not only doesn’t want to do business with you, but you’ve also got a walking time bomb of potentially negative advertising.  If they have a bad experience they’ll tell more people about it than about a good experience. A person with a negative message (bad experience) will repeat it eighteen to twenty times. One with a good message (good experience) may repeat it three to five times. (Chilton Research,1995). That was back in the day when word of mouth was telephone to telephone (landlines generally connected to the wall with a cord). Today, that number has astronomically expanded because of social media, just a click away.

The take away is very simple: Don’t use terms like small stuff or waste of  time with any customer. You never know if that customer will turn into one of the most loyal customers you ever had. They surely won’t if you make them feel mistreated and unimportant: read that small. Even the best client can have a bad day and be snappish. You don’t have that luxury because service with a smile can change the worst attitude, but bad behavior in response to bad behavior just means everyone loses. Of course you know this already. Do your employees know this?

Listening is deciding that what that important person is saying is more important than what you are doing at that precise moment. That should be the simplest and most attended to lesson.

Every business owner and executive has heard this before. Every employee should have heard it, but it seems that fewer are hearing it every day. Every entrepreneur has had a bad experience and vowed not to repeat the mistake. It isn’t a new message. But, it is obvious that there are a lot of companies that must train their people in people skills, and most especially listening skills.  Listening, it seems, has become a lost art that has suddenly been rediscovered. Imagine that!
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