2 posts categorized "Listening"

06/27/2012 Listening has never been easier. So why don’t we do it?

I was at a meeting a while back when someone exclaimed “I think we’re doing great. Why can’t everyone see that?”

It’s a common enough sentiment. You can hear that on the client side or on the agency side. It’s what happens when people become so highly focused on their own work that they lose any outside perspective. At work we concentrate on getting our work done, perfecting our internal systems, navigating through internal politics and improving our products. Most all of that is within our control, or at least it feels like it is.

The challenge is that most other people can’t see you doing that because they’re either not that interested or because they’re focused on their own needs. But if what you’re “doing” is supposed to meet the needs of other people, you may be in trouble. One thing that continues to astound me is the lack of interest or desire in actually listening to what your audience needs and says.

Listening has never been easier than it is today. Social media has turned into a powerful tool to connect with and listen to people. The brands that stop overly obsessing about selling stuff on Facebook and use the channels to listen and to build stronger connections to their customers end up doing better. We’re (thankfully) moving past straight-up focus groups and market research as a way of gathering intelligence and moving toward design-thinking and ethnographic collaborations with customers instead.

The super power of social is that people love receiving attention and love knowing that someone is listening to them. That’s a human super power too. It doesn’t take much for companies to take some time and listen to their clients or customers; to ask them what matters to them; to inquire how you’re doing serving them. 

Why don’t we listen more? Probably because we’re afraid of hearing bad news. “I think we’re doing great” might be code for “I don’t want to hear what I’m doing wrong.” Face it; we’re all people here, with our thin skins and sensitive egos.

Rather than desensitizing yourself, cloak yourself in “listening” disguise. Pretend you’re putting on a lab coat and geeky glasses, or a pith helmet and jungle boots. Pretend you’re a scientist or an ethnographer out on a mission. Whatever you hear and see, you probably won’t take it personally.

Here’s what I’ll guarantee: Even if after asking and listening you don’t hear anything earthshattering or breathtaking, you will hear enough from customers that will cause you to rethink at least a few of the things you’re doing in your normal, day-to-day work. Those things might help you improve a service or product, or might allow you to improve the way your company deals with customers.

Listening changes people. It changes the person telling and it changes the person hearing. After listening you won’t have to “think” you’re doing great, you’ll know.

02/06/2009 Listening to your Company

Chris Brogan wrote a great blog entry last week on listening. He had one of the easiest checklists ever for using the Web to listen and research. I agree with Chris, listening is one of my favorite things to do, especially in my work.

Right now I’m helping a Canadian company rebrand itself online. I’m in the best part of the process where I get to talk with and listen to (mostly listen to) key stakeholders and company employees. The account people listen in when I notice two things right away.

First, the account people seem blown away by the gold nuggets we’re picking up. Insights that will not only make our work better, but provide us with smart, long-range planning (which means more business for the agency). It’s amazing how hard it is sometimes to build this into a process when everyone just wants to jump to a Web site build.  Production always seems to take priority over listening.

Second, I hear how grateful some employees seem just to have someone listening to them. Funny because they’re the ones with most of the institutional knowledge and direct customer contact. For them, this isn’t an abstract exercise, they’re dealing with both the happy ones and the malcontents, both on the customer AND employee side, every day! To be fair, this isn’t unique to this company; it happens everywhere.


I’d love to have a Brogan checklist to use the Web to listen to employees but that probably doesn’t exist.

One problem is that employers don’t want their employees Tweeting or chatting when they have work to do.  We don’t build inter-employee communication into the workday. I think there’s a great opportunity for marketing and social media firms to set up internal listening processes for leadership to listen to their employees.

That’s why I hope more companies use things like Jive Software’s Clearspace as an Intranet solution. Since it has social networking tools built right into it, there should be more opportunities to listen.

Setting up internal Twitters for companies might be another interesting idea. Anything to turn our listening ears to the inside as well as the outside.

There are a number of marketing firms who say they do this, but they’re mostly focused on external marketing and production dollars at the end of the day.  But in a time when efficiencies will become crucial who can afford not to listen to employees?

Anyone out there with good examples of internal corporate listening?

UPDATE: Bad chatter is happening online by employees, and it's freaking out the CEOs.Question is, how much? And how do you know it's employees?

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