Around 68% of customers believe brands should demonstrate empathy and 37% of them believe that they generally do Insights for Professionals

It might seem obvious that companies should listen to their customers and rely on their feedback and requests to a certain extent, however, most companies are failing

Especially with the aftermath of the pandemic and remote interactions, businesses have learned the importance of listening and being close to their customers to adapt quickly to their needs and current situations.

According to research, it is still essential to keep up personalised interactions with customers to improve customer experience and make sure they remain loyal using tailored services and active listening aligned with their expectations.

The 2020 SalesForce report on customer expectations and its current evolution has revealed that 66 per cent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and demands. Moreover, 61 per cent of them have declared that their experience with one industry will influence their expectations with the next one.

The report also reminds companies that customers expect connected and personalised journeys, innovation and protection of their data to increase or decrease their trust in the company.

Ross Robinson, Director of Design and Transformation at analytics-driven firm Optima Partners has discussed what it actually means to listen to your customers and how your company can improve as a result. He explained what is missing is the authenticity behind the marketing strategy.

Many companies suggest very broad ideas encompassing concepts such as 1:1 customer engagement, personalisation or deeper relationships.

All those strategies are aimed at customers on a macro level - without considering customer experience at the micro level. They are too vague and blurry with a one-size fits all plan, triggering the opposite of customer-personalised listening. Robinson insists on the fact that active and genuine listening means getting away from quick outbound email surveys or spamming phone calls.

The listening and gathering feedback work has to be done in real-time - regardless of the channel and the time. Many companies are still guilty of this self-centred, one-way exchange when it comes to customers and continuously play this "guessing game," which has proven to be insufficient.

According to Robinson, about 60 per cent of UK small businesses fail in their first three years of creation due to the fact that they did not listen enough or properly to their customer's feedback and needs.

Customers are looking for added value and uniqueness within a business that will make them switch from a one-time customer to a lifelong one.

If companies display constant curiosity to improve their products or services based on their customer's evolving needs, they could increase their odds of exposure and sustainability by almost three times more.

To secure their chances of thriving, Robinson advises companies to maximise the value exchange between them and their customers. Each customer wants to feel individually unique and represented, making it essential for companies and their employees to invest time, energy and money into keeping this link substantial and reliable.

Furthermore, businesses can unlock value from the data they have. However, they should keep in mind that this data should be collected regularly, ensuring it is based on day-to-day customer interactions to keep it personalised and improve quality.

In addition, a company's reputation and brand image are equally important for customers to feel like there is a real effort and authenticity behind the product or service they are after.

Based on the Salesforce report, once this system is acquired, the company has the right skills and resources to go the extra mile and exceed the customer's expectations. Around 91 per cent of the customers surveyed they'd be more likely to reiterate a purchase when they have had a positive experience, and 71 per cent they have made a purchase decision based on a qualitative customer care experience.

Finally, another important factor is leveraging and maximising ROI on customer-focused technology.

As a matter of fact, according to the software company Monetate, 95 per cent of companies that saw their ROI triple was due to them improving their personalisation and listening efforts, which in return increased their profitability the following year.

Robison further emphasised the importance for businesses to get the "voice of their customers," to not buy "shiny technology" before establishing and understanding the end game and being open to seeing things from a new perspective.

The more companies listen and accurately analyse all potential customer profiles that they attract the more powerful and sustainable the loyalty bond will become.

In conclusion, companies should work on improving their listening and communication skills to obtain more valuable and spot-on data, which could in return greatly improve their customer experience and lead to better customer feedback.

With better listening skills businesses will be able to unlock new opportunities and from there go from structured data to behavioural data and then customer-volunteered data. This process will help immensely in collecting more qualitative insights and help improve listening skills which can also be beneficial and nurtured within the workplace itself.