If you want to learn about the problems in a business then spend 2 days working in the call centre. It’s a raw experience. You’ll quickly get bombarded with what customers think of the business – good and bad.  They won’t be calling you for a chat. They’ll be calling because they have a problem or have been disappointed in some way.

Mostly what you will learn is what they DON’T want. Some are obvious. Waiting 15 minutes in a call queue sucks. So does out of stock products. Ditto for slow loading web sites and broken web-links. Late deliveries? Not good. Inaccurate billing? Unpopular.  Making excuses? Nobody cares.

Sitting in a call centre with headphones on is a lot less sexy than strategy sessions, media briefings, new product launches or the latest market offer. But it is equally important. Existing customers are the ‘bread and butter’ of any organisation – they are hard to get, easy to disappoint and not simple to replace. Never forget that they pay the bills and therefore they (or at least most of them) need to be kept happy.

To do that you need to know what they are thinking and that’s why it’s important to regularly tap into the market conversations about your business. This should be done systematically and often. Scour online forums, blogs, Facebook etc. Find out what the ‘chat’ is. Spend time at the front line too – in your call centre, out with your reps, on the shop floor – and continually ask this simple question – ‘what can we do better?’

Even small things shouldn’t be ignored – for example a slow loading web site, while seemingly trivial, will inconvenience customers and cost sales.

In the early days of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would bring an empty chair into team meetings to represent the voice of the customer. Nowadays, the company has specially trained employees dubbed “Customer Service Bar Raisers” who are fanatical about improving customer service. When they’re not happy, everybody at Amazon knows about it.  It’s probably one of the reasons why the company recently won the USA’s prestigious National Retail Federation’s Retailer of the Year Award – not bad for a retailer without any stores!

What is clear is that if you make it hard for customers to buy from you (by putting unnecessary obstacles in the way or by delivering a less than optimal service) then they probably won’t. Maybe the answer starts with stepping into their shoes and experiencing ‘your service’ from their perspective. Would you buy it?  Is it a great experience or an average or bad one? What would you change?

Don’t delay, head over to your call centre and strap on the headphones – it’s as good as place as any to start understanding what your customers really think about your business and what they DON’T want you to give them…

Featured image by Nadia Chair Tirado