Brand Matters: Are You Listening?
It all starts with careful and active listening. Schwab and Penney wisely placed the customer first and didn’t hog the brand conversation with their own corporate-focused agendas. How can your company get better at listening?
Silence Speaks Volumes
Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management, reminds us: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
No doubt the founders of Netflix were excellent “read-between-the-lines” listeners. They wowed customers of competitor and long-time industry giant Blockbuster and wooed new ones through groundbreaking services such as free DVD delivery, no late fees and prepaid return address envelopes. They continue to listen to customers’ spoken and unspoken needs. Blockbuster now is playing serious catch-up.
Before your brand has to play catch-up, check your listening attitude. Who in your company is paying attention to what customers are not saying? And how are you acting upon that information?
Read ’Em Their Rights
Catalog and online merchant The Vermont Country Store also listens well, and therefore speaks its customers’ language. As “purveyors of the practical and hard to find,” The Vermont Country Store takes its customer conversation and relationship seriously. Long before JetBlue wrote one for airline travelers, this company had a Customer Bill of Rights. It’s prominently displayed on page two of its catalogs, printed on its shipping boxes and displayed on its Web site (see image below).
The company also understands customers’ needs. I recently received its postcard that asked simply: “What products have become annoyingly overcomplicated with gizmos and gadgets you just don’t use?” This question gets not only to the heart of one of its customers’ greatest frustrations, but to the heart of the company’s product line. The Vermont Country Store listens, cares, responds and keeps those communication lines open.
Andrea Syverson is president of IER Partners, a strategic branding and merchandising consultancy based in Colorado. She can be reached at (719) 495-2354 or asyverson@ ierpartners.com.