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Are you listening?

 27 July 2023     Donald Cooper 

A few years ago, I worked with a company that became the clear market leader in their field.  They were also incredibly customer-focused and extremely profitable. How did they do it? The owner hired a chief operating officer to run the business day-to-day so he – the owner – could spend half his time traveling across the country visiting, thanking, listening to and learning from customers. He became the Chief Listening Officer.

This may seem a bit extreme for you and your business, but I’m pretty sure you’re not spending enough time listening to and learning from your customers right now. Who is the chief listening officer in your business?

When we listen to our customers, two wonderful things happen. First, we learn from them. Second, we honour them. Both are important. But don’t just drop by for a visit. Prepare a list of specific questions to determine what you’re doing right, what needs fixing and how to fix it.

Years ago, Eaton’s, then Canada’s national department store and retail icon, installed a helicopter pad on the roof of their downtown Toronto head office so their president could fly in from his country estate, land on the roof, descend a flight of secret stairs to his office and never have to encounter a customer or front-line employee. When I heard that, I predicted they’d be out of business within ten years. Sadly, I was right.

Many businesses, even relatively small ones, have lost that all-important connection with customers. Or they’ve stopped caring. How much time do you spend listening to and learning from customers? Do you have a customer advisory board that meets every four to six months? Do you get out from behind your desk and spend some quality time in the real world? Do you ever call your business when you’re out of the office, just to see how the phone is answered?

And, if you can’t get out as often as you’d like, do you listen to your front-line people? They deal with customers all day, every day. They know stuff. And they hate it when you don’t ask for their insights and help.

Bonus thought: While you’re in a listening mood, listen to your suppliers. They know stuff too and almost nobody listens to them. Ask them what you could do better from their perspective. Ask them if your company is taking advantage of all the product knowledge, training, support and special deals that are available? How could you work together more effectively in a true ‘win-win’ relationship?

So, what will be your commitment and specific action plan to spend more time listening to customers, or listening to those who serve customers in your business. And to your suppliers?

Here’s something else to think about:
Business quote of the week: “As a business owner, leader or manager, you are the source of passion, energy and joy in your business or department. No one will love the business and your customers more than you do. If you don’t love it anymore, do everyone a favour and move on!”

Quick business tip: A ‘world-class’ mind set will affect every part of your business. Even though they’re based in a small rural town, Home Hardware, Canada’s largest retail hardware chain, has a ‘world-class’ mindset about everything they do.

Their fleet of 148 trucks and 605 trailers just won the Private Motor Truck Council’s large fleet Top Trucking Safety Award for the tenth time.

So, here’s the question, is being world class (the best) at everything you do part of your culture and commitment? Mediocrity is no longer an option!

Emojis aren’t just cute…they’re legal: A Canadian judge has just ruled a ‘thumbs-up’ emoji (👍) can validate a contract. The case involved a grain buyer looking to purchase flax from a farmer by texting the farmer a contract and asking the farmer to confirm it.

The farmer replied with a thumbs-up emoji, but never shipped the grain. The farmer argued the emoji was merely a confirmation he received the text, not that he had accepted it. But the court ruled the ‘thumbs-up’ emoji signified acceptance of the contract and ordered the farmer to pay $82,200.

Three Canadian cities are the world’s most livable: In The Economist magazine’s 2023 survey on ‘The world’s most livable cities’, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto are all in the Top Ten. Montreal is just out of the Top Ten by a bit.  Vienna is number one in the survey while Damascus, Syria is the least livable out of 173 cities studied. To access the complete study, click here. 

That’s it for this week! Live brilliantly!

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This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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