In our current ongoing conversation about listening skills, I wanted to talk about feedback. We have been discussing listening in the context of enrollment. Our goal is to “enroll” others to join us in what we want – for them to be a new client, or continue as a satisfied client, to buy our product, or to refer us to others. In enrollment, we must listen very closely to what the other person is telling us. In Part V – Listen, of the series on enrollment, I introduced the reflective listening model. In this model, we listen closely and indicate we are hearing the other person by reflecting back what we think that person is saying.
Many businesses ask for feedback. They have differing reasons for doing so. The best reason to seek feedback, in my view, is to learn and grow. If this is the purpose, we need to ask questions that generate useful information. This type of question, as we discussed in an earlier blog (Part IV – Ask) is an open-ended question. The best information is obtained by asking questions like “what do you like best about our business?” “what would you like to see us improve?” An example of a question that does not elicit useful information is “would you refer us to a friend?” This tells you only if they are happy or not, but not the most important element WHY are they happy or unhappy?
Once you get the feedback, comes the listening. If you ask for feedback and you do nothing with it, you have not shown that you hear what the person is saying. My local YMCA is a great example of dealing well with feedback. They ask for feedback on 5X7 cards. After the card is submitted, the YMCA representative responsible for dealing with the issue writes on the card what they will do about the issue. Then they post the cards on a bulletin board for all to see. When I complained that they were using Styrofoam cups and I had a concern of their environmental impact, the Y representative not only wrote on the card, but called me to talk about a potential solution. He reflected back my concerns. We brainstormed options.
I can tell you I felt heard. The interesting addition to this is that I did not get the result I wanted, but I still felt heard. You cannot underestimate the value of truly listening to your customers.
On the other end of the spectrum, I recently had an experience I considered in my view “unprofessional” with a company I truly respected. When I emailed and told them I felt they had been unprofessional, they did not respond to me. Being ignored caused me to lose respect for them and question whether I wanted to continue to work with them. As I continued to complain up the chain of command, I did finally feel heard. The lesson here is train people on all levels simply to hear – to reflect back. No one had to admit any mistake. Had they simply said to me, “I can see you are feeling you were treated unprofessionally,” I would have felt they heard me.
This can make a big difference in your company. Share your experiences with giving and receiving feedback!