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How listening leads to competitive advantage

How listening leads to competitive advantage

Having an open ear can create confidence, trust and value, according to Jess Pritchard

Being receptive to feedback and responsive to customer needs has always been at the heart of top quality service. However, over the last few months, an open ear has proved even more valuable as businesses have been forced to adapt quickly to survive. 

Franchises that choose to listen to customers and act on those insights have a unique opportunity - one that could create even greater competitive advantage. Here’s why the time is now to perfect the art of listening:

Generate insight
Today’s consumers have high expectations, so a solid understanding of their wants, needs and ever changing behaviour is vital for success.

Analysis of how and when people engage with a business, as well as how they feel and what they need, can help to inform overall strategy, aid product and service development and ultimately influence spending decisions.

Franchises with quality data, be that from survey data, phone call recordings or focus groups, already have insights that can improve customer sentiment and grow the bottom line. It just needs to be used.

There are a number of additional tools available to ensure businesses are actively listening to customers. Franchises can track customer satisfaction by measuring their Net Promoter Score, encourage online reviews via platforms such as Trustpilot, monitor keywords and sentiment in live chats and use social listening tools to monitor, analyse and respond to mentions about them on social media.

As well as listening to their audience, franchisees’ leadership and management teams must also listen to employees. Those on the front line of service are usually the first to hear from customers and have the deepest understanding of what makes them tick.

Working together to assess the data, you can celebrate the positives and scrutinise the negatives in order to improve the customer’s experience.

Boost employee morale
It’s no longer enough to simply say you’re customer focused. It must be evident across every aspect of your business and this starts with your corporate DNA - culture.

For franchises that typically have a wide geographical footprint, a strong culture is fundamental to ensuring employees feel part of a bigger picture. Of course, each individual franchisee will have their own objectives and face their own challenges, but working towards a common goal is crucial for success and consistent customer service is paramount.

Put simply, franchisors and franchisees can’t expect employees to put their customers first if they don’t do the same for them.
Employee feedback carries as much weight as customers’ and by welcoming suggestions for improving the business franchisors can promote a sense of entrepreneurialism among franchisees. Equally, by creating a culture of idea sharing franchisees can demonstrate that they value their employees’ opinions. 

When monitoring customer feedback, remember that everyone loves a little confidence boost. When employees are praised individually, ensure they’re rewarded for their hard work and share their success with the wider team. It will boost morale and show that hard work pays off.

Encouraging openness and transparency transforms relationships and improves overall performance. The happiest employees are those who believe that the companies they work for relate to them - it all comes down to listening.

Increase sales
There’s a direct correlation between understanding your audience and growing your business. Fast growth companies are much more likely to be tuned into their customers’ thoughts and feedback. That’s why customer service should never be considered an expense, but a growth opportunity.

It’s no secret that happy customers buy more and customers feel happy when they know they’re being heard - it’s a key part of delivering a great experience.

No business is irreplaceable and no matter how wonderful your product or service is, you’re always at risk of churn. One poor interaction can send a customer or prospect straight into the hands of a competitor and one of the most common gripes among consumers is the feeling of being ignored and unvalued.

Listening to feedback is the number one way to keep abreast of customer demand, fulfil (and exceed) their expectations, generate loyalty and increase retention. Also, employees can quickly earmark any opportunities to upsell or cross-sell and squeeze as much possible value out of a sale.

Create brand ambassadors
Businesses often get bogged down spending more time handling complaints than they do celebrating customer approval.

In terms of marketing, nothing speaks louder than a customer who sings your praises. Smart and strategic PR, advertising and social media all play a vital role in promoting your business, but a prospect is much more likely to respond to a genuine, positive endorsement than a glossy advert.

As franchises look to cut their costs in the wake of the pandemic, brand ambassadors offer a cost effective way to ensure they stand out from their competitors and aid recovery.

Influencer marketing has become increasingly popular and may well form a part of your overall strategy, but brand ambassadors are more authentic and often much more relatable to your audience than someone with a carefully curated grid, polished image and huge following.

In today’s digital society, consumers are savvy - they know when they’re being sold to and it’s a turn off.

Encourage employees to always be on the lookout for evangelical customers talking about your business. These people are marketing gold dust and can only be identified by listening to customers and developing a personal relationship.

Listening empowers you to learn from and have meaningful conversations with your customers in order to create ever improving experiences and solidify your reputation as a company that cares.

By investing in your franchise’s listening skills you can create confidence, trust and value at a time when consumers need it most.

The author
Jess Pritchard is head of corporate for Moneypenny, which handles 15 million telephone calls and live chats for franchises across the UK each year.

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