Thursday, September 14, 2006

Listening builds customer trust

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, September 14, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Listening builds customer trust

“Ganyan na talaga iyan, eh.”
“Policy kasi namin ganyan.”
“Wala akong magagawa, empleyado lang ako dito.”
“Bibili ba kayo?”
“Hindi puede.”
“Punta na lang kayo sa ibang tindahan.”
“Mahal ’yan.”
“Kung nabibilisan kayo sa metro ko, sakay na lang kayo sa ibang taxi o sa jeep para mas mura.”

These are the outright answers to some simple questions or remarks that customers ask of salespersons: Mayroon bang ibang kulay o hugis o kopya o sukat? Puedeng tumawad? Magkano ito? Puedeng humingi ng extra table napkin o ketsup? “Kada 100 metro na ba pumapatak ang metro?” “Bakit parang may sira ito?”

Worse, these salespeople give you a cold shoulder, a blank stare or a shrug of the shoulder or they immediately shift their attention to another customer or start chatting with a fellow salesperson. Worst, they are texting while talking to you.

These attitudes are not only uncaring, but downright insulting. You know that they are only interested in making a sale, not in satisfying your needs. You don’t trust these people to give you the products or service that you need because they don’t listen. Rather, they focus on their “selling points.”

The Baldrige Criteria for Excellence emphasizes the importance of listening to grow customer satisfaction and loyalty. Some of the questions asked under the Category on Customer and Market Focus are:

• How do you listen and learn to determine key customer requirements, needs and changing expectations and their relative importance to customers’ purchasing or relationship decisions? How do your determination methods vary for different customers or customer groups? How do you use relevant information and feedback from current and former customers, including marketing and sales information, customer loyalty and retention data, win/loss analysis, and complaint data for purposes of planning products and services, marketing, making process improvements and developing new business opportunities? How do you use this information and feedback to become more customer-focused and to better satisfy customer needs and desires?

• How do you keep your listening and learning methods current with business needs and directions including change in your marketplace?

• How do you manage customer complaints? How do you ensure that complaints are resolved effectively and prompt­ly? How do you minimize customer dissatisfaction and, as appropriate, loss of repeat business? How are complaints aggregated and analyzed for use in improvement throughout your organization and by your partners?

When you have and are able to implement all the processes to address all the above issues; then, you are on your way to becoming globally competitive. When you listen to your customers and use their inputs you are able to manage and improve your processes and grow your business.

Listening, though, is very hard to do. That is why most salespersons have developed ready scripts to handle customer inquiries and complaints. Most of the time they are not listening; they are simply faking listening. They are just waiting for the customer to stop talking and then they deliver their memorized lines. They are not paying attention—they are faking listening.

Customers do not just want to buy things; they need to be listened to and given the undivided attention of sales-people. When they have the gift of your listening, they give you their trust and their money. Otherwise, they go to another store, restaurant, salon or take another taxi or whatever. And they pass the word around.

Malugod kong binabati ang aking kapatid na si Dr/Prof Jess Fer. Ramos sa kanyang nakamtang Gawad ng Pagkilala mula sa Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino dahil sa mahalagang ginampanan niya bilang propesor, manunulat at editor sa pagpapalaganap ng Wikang Pambansa. Ang ibang pinarangalan ay sina Ariel Dim. Borlongan, Dr. Lydia Buenafe Liwanag, Mabuhay Singers at Advanced Filipino Abroad Program ng Unibersidad ng Hawaii.

Ang Komisyon ay pinamumunuan ni Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, Ph.D. bilang nanunung­kulang tagapangulong komisyoner. Ang Gawad ay ginanap kaugnay ng pagdiriwang ng Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa.

Moje consults on human resources and organization development. Her e-mail address is

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