3 Ways Customer Listening Powers Marketing Effectiveness


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Today customers can make sure that their voice is heard like never before. And, if marketers don’t have measures in place to listen, they are turning a deaf ear to potentially significant problems and missing out on essential insights for improving their customer experience.

Following are 3 ways to leverage customer listening and examples of how companies are putting these strategies into action.

1. Realize that Customer Listening (and Responding) is a 360-Degree Commitment.

Engagement with customers includes business partners who are also the face of your brand. So, how every aspect of your brand listens to the voice of your customer and responds is key.

For example, NASCAR made the decision to revamp its marketing and listening in five key areas. But that’s not where it ended. NASCAR also encouraged its business partners and drivers to do the same.

“We developed an industry action plan,” stated Steve Phelps NASCAR CMO, “… A plan for digital and social, a plan for driver star power–and within each plan, [we came up with] a number of different action items … [In an] effort to be thought leaders who provide the best available experience to our fans. We strongly encourage those across the entire landscape of the sport to embrace digital and social media — from drivers and teams to tracks and corporate partners.”

With new technologies NASCAR is boasting 6,000 tweets a minute, 565,000 posts per day and one million posts per event.

2. Customers are More Than Numbers, They are People, Talk to Them … (And listen.)

Data gives you a good view of what customers are doing. However, it is not going to tell you why or give you the emotional factors like a conversation. Personal interactions can be more valuable than all the big data you will ever collect.

Starting in October, Flow and Columbus Business Solutions, a telecommunications company serving the Caribbean, asked customers to tell them how they felt. Michele English, Columbus’ executive vice president and chief customer officer noted, “Our plan is to significantly enhance our customer ‘listening’ systems and ensure that feedback is integrated into our daily decisions and connected to our customers’ experiences across the organization… we have to design and implement [operational processes] to ensure that every customer touch point in the organization can support our customers’ needs efficiently and effectively… We now look forward to more customer feedback. “

The Company designed an easy to use online customer survey and sent communications to customers to encourage them to complete the survey and tell the company what matters.

3. Make Conversation (and Listening) Easy with Social Communities

Online communities enable the exchange of ideas in discussion forums, polls and social media. They provide brand information, mitigate problems and provide opportunities for a collaborative two-way conversation.

Southwest Airlines launched a Listening Center to monitor its online communities using a keyword-based listening tool that pulls in mentions from social platforms. The Listening Center monitors insights in real time to quickly identify issues and immediate engagement opportunities. Customers can connect their Twitter handles to their Rapid Rewards frequent flier numbers to get personalized services. Southwest Airlines also leverages the Listening Centers to send apology letters for delays, find new opportunities for engagement and implement company-wide customer care.

Alice Wilson, social business advisor for Southwest’s marketing organization notes that sharing the information collected is the key to listening success. “The customer feedback means something different to each [department] and can inform each group in a different way…From a social care standpoint, [employees] want to help assist and resolve. But somebody from the marketing team may be looking at that [data and ask], how do we alter communications to help these future situations?…The point is not to keep it as a silo.”

Keys to Effectively Listening to the Voice of Your Customer:

  • Listening should be at the heart of your marketing strategy.
    Listening lets you understand the “why” of what your customers are doing and experiencing so that operational issues, communication, and experience can be overhauled for a more positive overall brand impression.
  • Learnings from Listening Needs to be Shared with Every Part of your Business.
    Having data without acting on the implications does nothing for your business. Set standards for how the insights from your listening programs are regularly integrated and shared with all departments so that changes and actions are put in motion to respond to customer needs and comments.
  • Meaningful Dialogue Based on Listening.
    Develop authentic, honest and direct conversations based on listening, which lead to meaningful connections and two-way dialogue.
  • Use Listening to Develop Strategies.
    Once you launch programs to listen, develop means for incorporating these learnings into new strategies that address the issues identified in customer conversations. Put in motion ongoing review of the data collected through listening programs so that you have a clear roadmap that delineates what customers are expecting, their pain points and their current/future demands.
  • Listening Objectives Must be Established.
    If you don’t know how you are going to listen, you will not be able to hear what your customers are trying to tell you. Whether you have the means to set up a full scale listening center, a social monitoring program, a survey, or a call center monitoring program, know what you are implementing and how you will regularly harvest and utilize the insights.

In summary, customers have a lot to say and they want you to listen. The good news is that customers generally have valid concerns and smart advice to offer. Marketers and customers will both benefit if the marketer creates multichannel ways of listening to customers and processes for acting quickly on their input.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Really great article. Everything you share here is so spot on. And too many times (personally speaking as well) decisions have been made in marketing/business/sales/etc based too heavily on intuition and neglecting the most important voice – that of the customer.
    I also want to share that there is a new generation of automated customer care tools available that can better illuminate the voice of your customers, as they are asking onsite. This helps to improve the care funnel and follow the appropriate and personalized escalation path (if necessary) in every individual case.


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