Gartner Blog Network

The lost art of listening is what makes “Social” a hit with customers.

by Michael Maoz  |  August 4, 2010  |  1 Comment

One of my favorite writers before university was Ernest Hemingway. I mention him because of something he once wrote that is as pertinent today as it was when he said it over sixty years ago. I paraphrase because I don’t have the source for the original, but it was something like this: “I like to listen. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from listening carefully. Most folks never listen.”

Well, listening to clients who are in the midst of introducing “Social” capabilities to their businesses, I am hearing that they are finding that the simple act of demonstrating that they are listening, and want to hear, wins a lot of respect for the Brand.

Most organizations have figured out that the price of not listening is crippling. There are exceptions. A company like Apple can afford not to listen. I am not saying that it does not listen – they happen to work hard at understanding customer needs. But let’s say that one of the Apple products were to have a battery die or screen go blank or software freeze in my house. The response (aside from my own, ignored, whine) is “Hurray! NOW can I upgrade to the new ….. – fill in the blank Apple product!”

Most businesses are not so fortunate to have the slickest products around. I remember late last year walking the campus of a main rival to Apple and noting the employees of this rival carrying iPhones, even though their employer offered a competing product. But for the rest of us, listening and responding are much more critical to our present and future.

And you know what? Traditional ROI is not the way to measure value. Instead of comparing support costs before Social and after Social (community created content and solutions – a feature of my latest research on, look at the change in sentiment. How much less vituperative, surly, nasty, testy and pugnacious your angriest customer is. See how many fewer acrimonious posts they send, or Tweets. See how many more advocates you have for your products and services. Look at the insights in new product features and process improvement opportunities. This can all be measured in standard A/B testing methods – which I’m happy to talk to you about. I am not arguing that we drop ROI efforts.

With the denouement of human agents in the customer interaction – the slow but inexorable transition from Carbon-based over to Silicon-based (human to computer) interactions, we have lost the connective tissue that gave the enterprise the pulse of the customer (I know – a bad mixed metaphor). Introducing listening, analyzing, responding/engaging in the customer processes restores some of what we have lost and are yet to lose.

You really have no alternative to going Social with your customer processes, so off you go!!! Get on it. And keep sharing your stories – I appreciate all of the calls and emails about your successes and challenges. Thanks for these.

Category: crm  customer-centric-web  innovation-and-customer-experience  leadership  social-crm  social-networking  social-software  strategic-planning  twitter  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on The lost art of listening is what makes “Social” a hit with customers.

  1. […] The lost art of listening is what makes “Social” a hit with customers. […]

Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.