Many businesses consider it vital to listen to their customers, they spend time and effort listening to their demands. It's important to start to be a listening organization, but what is the value of listening to your customer base? They will have many likes and dislikes. In some instances it is best to listen to the prospect that did not buy your product and ask why they went elsewhere for their service. The challenge for many businesses relates to managing the gap in feedback.

The issue: a significant gap in feedback

In fact, for the huge volume of sales transactions that do occur everyday in the world, whether it be between companies and customers (B2C) or between companies (B2B), there's only a minute percentage that goes completely wrong, completely off-track, or ending inirrevocablefailure. More often than not problems can be overcome by an ongoing dialogue between the supplier and their customer, the on-line supplier that gives regular status updates about the progress of an order is very much appreciated, why can't this be a part of normal business practice?

Normally, the merchandise purchased works satisfactorily or the service was of a reasonable standard. Yet the questions remain as to whether it is satisfactory, the question here is about what 'satisfactory' means to the customer? To know this you need to understand the mindset of your customer base.A periodic problem can definitely be an annoyance and normally either the vendor or even the manufacturer is going to do whatever can be done to solve the issue.

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Customer comments

If you want to understand what your clients are thinking about or planning to do, then you should ask them, yet this can often be challenging to do.Many caring organizations provide aquestionnaire asking "How was our service?" yet it's rare for such surveys to provide actionable intelligence.Confronted with this type of question, clients tend to be more inclined to be polite about the advantages of the merchandise or support levels received rather than supplying a genuine critique of capability or how to develop the service offering.

In reality the supplier needs a critique and not a pat on the back.

That question has its uses, but must be combined with another question, such as: "Is there anything we could do to improve the standard of our service offering?" This is the kind of open question which will permit a far more comprehensive and reasoned response to be given by the customer. It can enable the client to feel that they're adding something toward the future growth and development of the product or service offered.

It's the kind of question that's best asked face-to-face and only at a time when there's a stable relationship, otherwise there can be a feeling that the client's views will simply be ignored.

An ongoing discussion

An ongoing dialogue is necessary between any supplier and their customer, this doesn't simply end when they have signed the check and paid the bill. Knowing the way the customer feels is only part of the solution.

Managing any feedback and understanding the customer's perceptions of your business as a supplier is vital and will form the next element to be discussed in this series of three articles about how we treat customers.

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