I’m Listening: Engage an Audience of One

The Customer EdgeAlong with 70,000 fans, I recently watched my San Francisco 49’ers defeat a tough Chiefs team in Levi’s Stadium. Amid the din of the stadium, the cheers and boos, I foolishly tried having a conversation with a friend. Despite my best efforts to maintain a conversation, I was no match for Colin Kaepernick, stadium music, and thousands of screaming fans. More than ever, every day we are in a similar fight for attention. It’s no fun trying to have a conversation, much less forge a relationship, when you are competing with the din.

Now imagine the opposite scenario. You might be in a crowded place but you are having a meaningful and focused conversation. Your friend is listening, closely, only to you. They may have a hundred of decisions to make or a calendar full of appointments – but none of that is intruding on this moment. Being the focus of someone’s attention is truly rare and powerful. It feels really good..

That’s the same feeling you want your customers to have. You want them to feel that their needs understood and fulfilled during every interaction with your company. Your customers must be an audience of one, where every part of your company is focused on their needs, their desires, and their successes. And if their experience is supported by products and services that map to their needs and contribute significantly to their successes, why would they turn to anyone else?

For large companies, and even small ones, this can be easier said than done. So how do you create this type of personal, attentive relationship between you and your customer? There’s no single answer to that question because every company faces challenges on multiple levels.

You need to understand your customers’ needs at a deep level. Gaining that insight may require information from a wide range of sources. Some of it you may have; some of it you may not. Some information may be public; other information may not be. Some of it may come from wholly new sources, such as Apple’s new watch, and your customers may willingly share that with you if it will help you meet their needs.

You need a way to make sense of all that information. You may have mountains of data, and you need a way to climb that mountain quickly and efficiently. Your products and services must be tuned and delivered with this mountain of information in mind. There’s a wide range of systems and processes that may be involved in this, but end-to-end flexibility and efficiency should be your guiding principles.

You need to engage consistently. You need to enable your customer to experience that same feeling of connectedness and of being understood no matter where or how they come into contact with your company. What your sales representatives know about a customer’s needs is knowledge that should be accessible to your customer service and call center representatives in real time. Whether your customers interact with you over the web, in a retail store, or via any other channel, you need to convey the same singularity of focus and the same profound understanding of their needs. Enable that understanding and focus to permeate all your channels, and you will be able to engage your customer consistently and in a way that can strengthen your relationship every time.

Remember how great it feels to be the center of someone’s attention? That’s what it feels like to be an audience of one. That’s your point of reference for an extraordinary customer experience..

Now go pay it forward to your customers.

This article was originally posted on The Customer Edge, a new webzine for leaders in customer service, marketing, sales, and commerce.

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3 Responses to I’m Listening: Engage an Audience of One

  1. Tom Siddons October 15, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    Jonathan, yet another inspirational blog post. From my experience as ISE for SuccessFactors over the past six months, I can confirm that the power of personalised, relevant communication (from pitching and demoing to closing and post-sale follow-ups) to build both rapport and revenue.

    I actually had a similar experience a few weeks ago: while I was watching Leinster v. Munster (as part of the Guiness Pro12 Rugby Union championship), I was in full conversational flow with a friend of mine, so much that I carried on speaking when the whole stadium went silent during a penalty kick, which set the home team (Leinster) back. I got nothing short of abuse from some hardcore fans, from which I learnt, that not listening when passions are running high, can lead to misconceived perceptions through an external image – intended or unintended.

  2. Malin Liden (@MalinJessica) October 16, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    I loved this post, it was one of those reads that make you stop and think. The analogies are great and what a fantastic benchmark to set ourselves the goal of creating a moment where the interaction is so interesting to your counterpart that you have their full and undivided attention. With all the distractions we experience in a world where information is at our fingertips and pushed to us over so many channels simultaneously, undivided attention is hard currency. We should treat it as the rare and valuable asset it is. Both when we try to earn other peoples attention and when we decide how to focus our own.

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