When you run your own business, you do a lot of “telling.” You tell potential customers about your products and services. You tell employees what to do and how to do it. And you probably tell your family how hard it is to keep everything moving in the right direction. But how do you know when it’s time to listen? Look for these signs. They may tell you that you need to implement a formal listening program.
You Have More Numbers than Stories
Business owners and managers tend to love surveys. We get to control the questions, and therefore limit the range of acceptable responses. Survey data can help us make good decisions. But too often, we’re just looking for confirmation of our own assumptions. Our employees and customers are likely to catch on. After several surveys, nothing much changes. People begin to wonder why they should bother responding.
Often customer feedback surveys come with a dire warning from employees. How many times have you heard a service provider say, “Give us five stars, or I’ll get in trouble”? Still, we tout our star ratings and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) as if they mean anything at all! All the while, you’re still in the dark about your customers’ experience.
Employee surveys are equally suspect. In large organizations, employees may feel like their voices get lost in a sea of data. Employees at smaller companies may fear that being honest will come at a steep price. Everything looks fine on the surface. But it’s just a mirage.
You Can’t Find the Answer in the Numbers
Sometimes, our survey data does reveal a problem. We may see consistently low scores in one aspect of performance, for example. Or numbers may broadly trend up or down over time. In these cases, we see that “something is happening,” but we don’t know what or why. If your charts and graphs leave you scratching your head in confusion, it’s time to ask for the stories behind the numbers. A listening program can help you understand the context for the data you’ve collected.
You See a Troubling Trend
Some companies put little trust in surveys or don’t use them at all. Maybe past data has led to the kind of confusion or frustration listed above. Still, leaders may notice trends that concern them. Employees are leaving, citing slightly higher pay as the reason for their departure. Customers stop returning our calls, and then we see their names or logos on our competitors’ testimonial page. People don’t always complain before they leave. Without a listening program, business owners may struggle to understand why people leave. Or, more importantly, why they stay.
Words and Actions Don’t Match
Finally, you may have noticed that people’s words don’t match their actions. Customers say they’re happy with the service you’ve provided. Employees may tell you they love being part of the team. But you nevertheless sense frustration or an absence of loyalty. People who just told you how happy they were are suddenly gone. In these cases especially, an outside firm like Collabo XD can dig in to find out what’s really going on.
Whether you implement your own listening program or use a specialized research firm like Collabo XD, getting to your customers’ and employees’ stories is essential. Uncovering the truth requires building trust and creating psychological safety. The process can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. But it’s the best way to shine a light on the problems so you can fix them effectively. If you’d like to learn what obstacles are truly holding you back, contact us for a free consultation.