Are you listening, are you hearing?

“Look man, you can listen to Jimi but you can’t hear him. There’s a difference man. Just because you’re listening to him doesn’t mean you’re hearing him.” (Sidney Deane, Wesley Snipes in ‘White Men Can’t Jump’)

You can listen to someone but do you understand them? If you can’t understand them, how can you strike up a conversation with them? William Hazlitt said “The art of conversation is the art of hearing”.  This is the crux of Customer Engagement: Listen to what that person is really telling you, understand what they are saying and use that to give them what they need. If all you hear is incoherent babble, then what chance do you stand?

This might seem obvious and a lot of brands believe they are listening to their customers.  But are they really listening to them? In reality they might be listening to parts of the conversation, but not across the entire journey and not in real-time. This makes it hard to find truly useful insight that can be used to take action when it’s needed most.

They are not hearing Jimi.

Gathering data from multiple systems, in multiple formats, from systems that were designed for different purposes, into a single data pool and then piling in with analytics tools and even the new buzz word “AI” (and the AI we are talking about here is pure number crunching, not the Arthur C. Clarke vision of AI) is not listening – its data gathering, crunching and finger crossing. It’s based on old-world thinking and approaches – ways of doing things that have moved on as technology has evolved. They’re still using a wireless to listen to Jimi and there’s too much noise and confusion.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way for brands to tune in and really hear want their  customers need.

When a customer is interacting with your brand they are not thinking in page URLs, session IDs, form data, call handling times and net promoter scores. They’re not machines. They’re human. They are thinking “I want to know more about…”, “I need to book…”, “My … is not working, how do I get help…”, “Who do I need to contact…”, “I’m interested in …”. What they do is driven by their personal goals and motives and preferences, by their logical reasoning and also their emotions. They do this in whatever channel or touch point they are using.

When you are really listening to individual customers across every touch point you can learn from them. You can listen in real-time in such a way that you can then do something really valuable with that insight. You’ll be hearing them. You’ll be able to immediately understand them, their in-the-moment needs and behaviour. This is the basis for an ongoing conversation, the kind that people like to have with people, the kind that builds trust and long-lasting relationships.

Just imagine a data pool full of *that* data – just imagine what you could do with that. You’d be able to screen out the noise and focus in on the most relevant things. You’d not only be listening to Jimi, you’d be able to hear him everywhere you go. Just imagine the kind of conversations you could have.

If you thought that was good, these will blow your mind…