Tag Archives: listening

Listening is paramount for business growth

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Do you have employees who are smart and engaged and that you suspect have great ideas but don’t seem willing to contribute? Do they trust you to acknowledge their contribution? Do they think you will even listen to their ideas?

Most employees have ideas and while not every one is a gem, some of those ideas will inevitably be good ones. But if the right environment isn’t present, most won’t step forward.

SpyingListen, encourage and acknowledge. Not every idea is a breakthrough but don’t be afraid to say so, while creating a listening environment. It’s an indicator of the health of your business. Talk to  your employees individually on a regular basis. Encourage them to contribute. Build trust.

Over time they will know you value their ideas and it will encourage them .

Good companies don’t have people working in silos. Build a culture that requires interactive listening where people contribute in a meaningful way and are acknowledged for their contribution.

Listening affects how you learn and grow.  Talk to everyone involved in your company and ask for their ideas. The results may surprise you.

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Filed under Communications, Human Resources, Managing, Uncategorized

Try real facetime with your customers

By Stephen Rhodes

OK, hold the fort. You are tweeting 10 times a day. You update your Facebook page 5 times a day. You write a blog twice a week and …..you are still waiting for floodgates to open.

No one writes, no one calls. In fact, you’re wondering if anyone is listening at all.

Most businesses today are better at capturing basic information about their customers than they used to be. Name, address, a phone number and/or an email.

It takes time to build an audience in Social Media. It takes two seconds to pick up the telephone.

Imagine a customers’ reaction when you call to ask for their opinion on a new service or product line. No sales pitch. I just want to know what you think.

Technology can become an excuse for not talking to our customers.

Do you let that happen?

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Filed under Customer Service

Seeking Free Advice, Consultants Need Not Reply

By Jeff Bowman

Has the evolution of social media tools brought us to the brink of seeing the business consultant on the verge of extinction? As strange as that may sound, it could happen. As a business consultant my job is to examine company structures, programs, products, marketing efforts, sales initiatives and the over arching corporate culture that brings them all together.

In doing this I can create a gap analysis and identify key areas that may be in need of an overhaul, or that are missing altogether. Most often I find that the leaders of the organization either have ear plugs in or blinders on, or both.

Consumer feedback is critical to the business improvement process, but up until recently few companies bothered to ask their current and former clients for their opinion. Enter the Internet, and a myriad of social media tools.  Feedback is now instantaneous and widespread.

Smart companies have taken the feedback process to the next level, and are now asking for customer opinions online through blogs or polls on the webpages, and spreading information through fan pages and tweets.  What was once an inexpensive avenue for marketing messages, delivering coupons en masse and generating buzz is slowly turning into a forum for free advice directly from the consumer.  That’s right, unpaid consultants providing the type of feedback that I might provide for a fee.

The web allows open participation from anyone. Many popular brands have taken to the web to ask for innovative ideas, new programs and suggestions for new product ideas, flavours or branding ideas. User registration allows for the collection of consumer data on a grand scale, that later drives a targeted e-mail campaign and  Voting lines where consumers can select to establish or kill a product line. Some companies release viral ads direct to consumers for their comments before they hit other forms of media broadcast.  There are even companies who openly solicit free advice on their packaging, their promotions, seek “green” advice and openly source new technologies and ideas, that might never have occurred to them inside the corporate fortress.

Alas, the best advice is not always the free advice. In a recent article in Advertising Age, the opening line reads

“Dear consumer, Your 15 minutes are over. You suck.”

Many brands are finding that consultants are still the go-to people for business solutions and professional advice. Despite the glut of cost-free ideas, you often get what you pay for. Smart companies follow the business rule, sell your strengths and buy your weaknesses. The age of consultants is far from over, in fact with the business spectrum changing daily, I think it may just be moving to a higher level, with specialization of consultants into smaller areas of expertise.

Tell us about your consumer feedback.

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Online marketing, Sales, social media

Shields down, listen up

By Stephen Rhodes

Kirk,  Picard, Janeway, Archer and Sisko were all good listeners. When faced with some enormous threat to the universe, their approach was first to diplomacy. Shields down, listen up.

It works equally well in business.

Small businesses have an advantage over larger ones because typically their relationships with customers are more intimate, hands on. To benefit from this leg up you have to drop the shields and be prepared to listen to what your customers want to say to you.

Do you make it easy for them to contact you? Do you take their calls?

Do you have a small advisory group of customers to bounce ideas off over breakfast once a quarter?

Do you invite their opinion in your literature, and online through blogs, tweets, surveys  and forums?

Drop the shields and put your Spockian ear to the wall. Listening will make you a better company and build long and prosperous relationships.

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Listening is the new frontier

By Stephen Rhodes

Good listeners are almost always better at most things in business than bad listeners.

Over at the Ric Centre blog, where I occasionally guest blog, Ken Sweeney posted on why it’s important to Listen to your Constituents. He uses US  President Barack Obama as an example and says that his insistence on crafting new health care legislation ran contrary to public concern for jobs. The State of the Union address acknowledged that once again he is at least listening to the American people. Action, of course, will speak louder than words.

Obama rode the wave of change, and somehow, once in power he dumped the lady that brung him to the dance.

Some cynics argue he wasn’t really listening at all and that change was really about turfing the Republican party after eight years of  George W. Bush. Politics is tough sledding. We elect people we think will make a difference. They get sucked into the vortex and we give our head a shake and do it again.

In business, especially today, not listening and responding can be lethal.

The rise of social media speaks directly to the frustration level of our customers. They want to be heard. They realize their concerns can have an impact and that with these powerful communication tools, they can influence change.

Listening is the new frontier. Ignore at your peril.

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Filed under social media, Stephen Rhodes