Allen Baler: Listen to Your Customers


If you own a small business, you probably spend an enormous amount of time working on it and in it. And I’d be willing to bet that when you’re not at the office or in your home office, you’re probably thinking about ways to improve your business.

Owning and running a business is in our blood as entrepreneurs. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on anything else.

We think about our employees and wonder if they’re receiving the proper amount of direction. We think about our current products and services, and wonder if they can be improved. We think about creative ways we can distance ourselves from the competition. We think about pricing, procurement, delivery, customer service and a whole lot more.

But here’s what some of us forget to do sometimes. And even if we don’t forget about it, we might not do it as often as we should.

We sometimes neglect to listen to our customers. We’re so busy trying to provide them with what we assume they need that we forget to ask them what they want.

A while back, a company in the United Kingdom posted 10 reasons why listening to customers is a great idea. Here are five of them:


  • Customers know what they want and need.


  • Customer feedback helps you improve.


  • If you don’t listen, customers will go elsewhere.


  • Customers can tell you what they think of your competition.


  • Customers like to feel valued.


There are several ways you can go about listening to your customers.


One is to ask for and read product reviews. By setting up a site for these reviews and encouraging customers to make comments, you have much better control than if they post their comments elsewhere. Even more important, you will learn what they like and don’t like about your products or services, and you can make adjustments accordingly.


Two is to engage with your customers on social media. Make an effort to get them to “like” your Facebook page, then post engaging content you believe is of interest to them. Make sure you respond to their questions and comments in a timely fashion. Again, you’ll have control here, so you’ll be able to delete anything inappropriate or overly critical.


Three is to conduct polls and surveys. Online surveys have become very easy to put together and very simple for customers to respond to. You can learn a lot this way, but only if you put considerable thought into exactly what you hope to gain from them and craft your questions in a way that facilities that.


Four is to hire great customer service reps. Customer service is an art. These people need to be empathetic when there is a problem, knowledgeable when there is a question, discerning when there is a chance for an additional sale and persuasive when it comes to closing the deal. Their goal should not be to get off the call as quickly as possible, but rather to spend whatever time is necessary to make the caller feel valued and to learn as much as possible from them.


Five is to keep track of complaints. Nobody likes to hear negative things about their products or services, but those negative remarks can lead to improvements that make your business better.


Failing to listen to customers means missing out on many great growth opportunities.


Establishing a policy of listening to your customers, on the other hand, will give you feedback and usable data, improve your customer retention, increase your customer spending and provide you with fascinating stories to share.


Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville, TN.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.