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Should You Actually Listen to Your Customers?


TechInAfrica – A good business model boasts a good number of customers beneath the surface. Whether the majority of them is silent or vocal varies between types of businesses, but there’s always something they want to say to both executives and stakeholders. But this poses as a bigger question; how important is listening to your customers? Are they in the way of your business’ growth? Do we overestimate or underestimate the role of listening in business success? Today, we take a look from both sides of the coin—why you should listen to them and why you shouldn’t.

Let’s start with why you should. Although the idea is a little bit of an obvious notion, we had underlined a couple things, so you don’t get them mixed up. Here are they:

They can help you improve

Customers of your business are the most fundamental source of information. They, who profess their verdicts based on experiences and data—not merely guesses, mind you—needed to improve your services. How do they really feel about the services you offer is gathered on reviews, evaluations, and feedbacks.

Are you currently meeting their expectations? How short do you fall amongst other similar competitors? What are you lacking? What services are unnecessary? More than often, these questions are answered by simply listening to your beloved customer base.

Customer base retention illustration via

They are your best testers

Similar to the point above, customers can see and point out flaws in your system in which founders and executives are oblivious about. This, paired with their ability to see your business in a recipient’s perspective, could be of help in developing new breakthrough through your services. Creative ways to improve—outside your comfort zone—are often defined by customers.

Have you ever seen a game on Steam and it has the label Early Access on it? This is a method for players to test the alpha stage of the game, whilst having the availability to send feedbacks and criticisms.

Also, one more thing, customers are often more detailed when it comes to spotting potential flaws and drawbacks. Most companies and CEOs only focus on the large, red string so much that they tend to overlook the tiniest details. In this respect, consumers are your best bet in helping you see those problems.

They help you understand what they want

How do you know whether the customers are satisfied with the products you offer? By simply listening to their thoughts and hearts. If you fail to hear what they’ve got to say and turn a deaf ear instead, they may become disinterested in your services and slowly walk away.

Yikes, you don’t want that to happen, do you?

To stay ahead from similar competitors in the market, you must explore new and nurture retained customers by listening their aspirations. In other words, to drive a business into success, one mustn’t cling and depend solely on ideas and passion—but also its customer base. Oh, as a bonus, listening to them grants you the impression of being empathetic.

Customer base retention illustration via

Okay, now you’ve read through the essentials on why listening to your customers are crucial in moving through the ever-growing market. But there’s also why you shouldn’t always do that. Here’s why:

They are not always right (in remembering their own memories)

Albeit we’ve written earlier that customers’ evaluations are based on their personal experiences, they’re not always accurate in recollecting their respective past events. Moreover, it’s widely known that memory distortion triggered by exposure to misinformation is a well-documented phenomenon—meaning that our brains are more likely to modify our memories, rather than keeping the original ones.

Happens to me at least once a week, so that’s that.

In other words, you can’t always trust a person when they say, “last week I bought your product and there’s a flaw in X’s design,” even though they’re your own customer.

They don’t know what they want

Remember the infamous quote by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company: “If I had asked what people wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Innovative takes don’t always come from the mouths of customers. Oftentimes, you have to break free from your comfort zone and show them things they didn’t know they needed.

iPad first generation illustration via

Take a look at iPad. Apple consumers back then allegedly demanded for more advanced computer systems with little to no attention averted towards the development of tablets. When there’s no supply nor demand to be facilitated, Apple then created the demand by introducing iPad—and boy, did they create.

You probably remember the hype of iPad and the way it shook the world when it was first launched. More often than not, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Without all customers being able to see and analyze what they actually want, they’re not always the brightest judges regarding what’s in their best interest.

They don’t always represent your consumer base

When they say they want X, what are the chances that they’re representing the entire consumer base (and not just themselves)? Unless you ask each of them what do they want, you can never be too sure that their opinion represents the majority. In fact, the majority of the users are often silent and will not speak unless addressed directly.

Growing customer base illustration via

To this extent, people are rarely compelled to share their opinion, even when their experience is negative. They will either carry on as if nothing’s happened, or switch to a different company. If you constantly listen to the voices—and complaints—of your customers without being able to distinguish each of them, you’ll end up granting the wishes of the loudest, angriest mob (but not necessarily the most helpful ones).

So what do you do?

In the end, it all comes down to you as a business executive whether to listen to your customers seriously. There are many ways for you to improve your business and listening to your consumer base definitely isn’t the only one.



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Written by Charis Chrisna

Writer, author, part-time fallacious wanderer, and an avid Hotline Miami lover.

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