Learning from Customers is Vital

“Keep learning to keep winning. If you stop learning you stop creating history and become history.” – Vadim Kotelnikov

Personally and professionally, growth is possible only through consistent learning. In the business, world companies have myriad opportunities daily to learn and how much they assimilate often paves the way to success or failure. Amongst the many different people and situations, they can learn from, customers are their most potent source. Learning from customers is vital and indispensable for any company since it is for them that a company is in business.  Learning from customers, is about listening and collating the thousands of conversations and interactions a company has with customers and then minutely analysing this data to understand what the customer is conveying. Many companies fail because the gap between the listening and putting into action is often too wide. They do not attempt to gain any behavioural and emotional insights about their existing or potential customers and as a result are unable to meet the customer’s expectations. There could be several reasons why companies fail at learning from customers – the process is inconvenient, labour intensive, time consuming and cumbersome.

As companies become more global, their customer base is also diversifying and the demographics would be not easily comprehensible. In order to provide top class and customized customer service, high quality products and brands that would fit the region the customers are from, companies need to dedicate more resources. These resources must have the responsibility for not just serving, but also actively learning from customers through every interaction. Through such learning, the company would be in a better position to tailor their products and customer service to suit the local needs of their global customer base. In the process of learning from customers, the company would understand the growing demand to respond swiftly, precisely and courteously to inquiries, problems and other business related issues. In order to deliver superior customer service and to ensure that the company’s products and services are in line with what the customer wants and will be able to use instantly, the process of learning from customers must not stop. Feedback surveys like the Voice of the customer, NPS and others are the endeavours of forward thinking companies who never stop learning from customers and their other partners.

Learning from customers does not and should not at just collecting and collating the data. In order to actually incorporate the customer’s feedback and provide them with the kind of service and product quality they demand, it is essential that the leaders of the company share the data with all the business divisions and departments. Post sharing the information, discussions on next steps and decisions on how the company can implement the customer’s needs and demands by creating products and services that would best satisfy the expectations of customers. Learning from customers is also about using every connection and interaction with them an opportunity to understand them better. A company that is customer focused and committed to excellence in customer service would, through learning from customers, strive to improve relationships and make every interaction memorable for them. Every person in the company and every activity done by the company would have focus in the direction of doing what is best for their customers.

Customers are a lot smarter now and satisfying them is not that easy. When they perceive that companies are committed and passionate to meeting their needs, they are more forthcoming with information and this is how learning from customers begins and continues. After receiving feedback, data and other information from customers, it is also vital that companies let customers know about how they have used the feedback from them and what changes they plan to implement. Customers feel valued and important when the company that they are in business with, considers their suggestions, making them even more amenable to share data and information.

In the process of learning from customers, companies can also form small discussion groups that comprise of their customers, employees, customer interfacing team representatives, senior leaders and other company partners. The exchange of information from these groups is a major learning exercise not just for the company but also for the customer groups and other people in the group. While findings and reports help in the learning from customers process, this exercise emphasizes the commitment of the company towards customer service and assures the customers and other stakeholders of doing business with an honest and trustworthy company.

Learning from customers is a lot more than just responding or reacting to what they say. Companies that have a culture of learning from customers develop the ability to, consistently meet their demands and more importantly anticipate future needs and expectations. As discussed previously, great customer service is easy customer service – one where the amount of customer effort is negligible and yet the relationship works seamlessly and smoothly. In a previous exposition, we discussed about how customers leave information and data ‘footprints’ all over the virtual world and especially on social media. The learning from customers, process is complete only when companies systematically collect this data and make it relevant for use, to improve their customer service and product quality.

We have been repeatedly saying that learning from customers is a process. In order for this process to run smoothly, there must be a plan and focused strategy. Companies can begin by carefully observing customer behaviour both in the real and virtual worlds. The observations are the first step towards raising the standards of customer service and product quality and match the offerings with most competitive pricing. Post analysing this data, companies can either hire professional help or create feedback questionnaires in order to gain further insight into the psyche of their customer base – both existing and potential. It is important however to provide open-ended questions such that customers can articulate their thoughts on paper. Questions that would have yes or no answers would require the company to check back with customers as to the reasons, which wastes time for both parties and in addition, would not be of any utility to the company.

Learning from customers is about being present when they are conducting business or shopping with you. This puts their reactions and behaviours in context of the situation and the customer service they receive at the time. The customer’s reactions and actions in real time are a very critical part of the ‘learning from customers process’ for companies. In addition, it saves time and effort for both the company and the customer since there would be no need for any follow up questions or further feedback – everything is in real time and is easily observed and absorbed.

The other form of learning from customers is from the kind of customers who usually have very different and may be even extraordinary viewpoints. The feedback from such customer sets provides a completely different approach and thought-process, which in many cases can prove to be the ‘revolutionary idea’ the company needs.

Whatever approach a company decides to use, the fact is that in order to make the learning from customers process a success, they must unlearn and rid themselves of any traditional thought processes and any preconceived notions. In doing so, the company will be able to blend their ideas of customer service with the mind-set of their customers and create something that the customers will instantly adopt. Learning from customers is about going where the customer is and doing what the customer expects – the highest form of customer service that can prove to be the unbeatable aspect for any company.

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