Women In Business

How to really listen to your customers

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Active listening, hearing what your customers really say, treating each and every one of them as individuals no matter how much your business grows is what it’s all about. Being sensitive to your clients’ needs is essential in some industries, and in others a very useful way to build rapport and grow your business.

A whole industry has been built around being sensitive to customer’s needs – it’s called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – these computer systems are founded upon the principals of good communication which are proven to increase sales. For those of us in small business however, we rely upon our member to remember personal details, important information and dates and set timely reminders to stay in touch. For many of us, it is at the end of the day our ability to build the one-on-one relationships that keeps our clients coming back.

People first

Remembering that each and every customer is an individual is at the core of her business practise. I started my career in health and nutrition – I worked in fitness clubs where there was a crazy focus on KPIs. It was all about how many new sign ups or plans you had written, rather than the health outcomes or personal goals.

For me, it began to feel like my clients were objects or data points and not people. I knew that we had it all wrong but that was the way their business model was structured, so I left the industry.

Businesse, need to behave in a small business mindset … remember your core goals and treat each customer like they’re your friend” and ensure their business targets don’t lose sight of the individual that they serve.

If you are caught up in a business plan that is all about growth and numbers you will very quickly lose business. To keep myself focused I always set targets that allow time for my business to stay personal.

I want to know about my clients’ lives, I almost always get to know them on a really personal level – so my targets allow space for me spend this time one-on-one, I treat my clients how I would like to be treated.

Active listening

Listening is one of the most important skills we have and how well we do it has a major impact on the relationships we build. Listening also happens to be one of the things that we do poorly – it requires that we fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.

People often work in busy, noisy environments that are distracting and research suggests that you remember less than half of what we hear, so there is some genuine evidence to suggest we should develop our listening skills.

Staying present when our customers are speaking is a challenge – try to look at your customers when they’re speaking, keep your mind clear of distractions and avoid preparing a response to what you’re hearing – just let your mind absorb what they say and empathise.

Get a little nosey

There is an art to asking the right questions and to listening actively, it starts with a clear mind and follows with a nod and smile and by mimicking the facial expressions of the speaker.

Ask questions – you can always start with the comfortable territory and slowly build up to more personal questions. As a therapist, I learn so much about my client’s personal lives – they share intimate details about their relationships and their worries – it’s part of what I really love about what I doe.

All these things might sound contrived when they’re written down – but when it comes down to the interaction, I’ve found so many people simply aren’t aware of their body language or tone. These little points can really help you connect and open up conversation.

Never stop learning

Continuing professional development ensures you are not only competent but it gives you and your staff the confidence to do what you do with perfection. If you know that your skills are second to none, you will have the ability to intrinsically read your client’s needs.

My business is all about referrals, word of mouth is incredibly powerful so making sure that I can read every client who steps foot through the door has come from many years of practice and training.

I want people to come to me with absolute confidence that I will be able to help them, that I will listen and find a tailored solution for their face – and I think this is what any business wants – that’s why I am always going to training sessions, researching, reading and looking for ways to sharpen my skills.

So, what is the financial reward to being sensitive to your customers? Well, how much does it typically cost you to market your business and attract new customers? Your sensitivity is essentially free PR. A loyal and satisfied customer will not only become a repeat customer, they also inherently support your business by bringing friends and families into the fold.

About Ursula Cervellone

Ursula Cervellone is founder of Feather Brow Couture, and an experienced eyebrow specialist and cosmetic tattoo artist with over eight years of experience in the cosmetic industry.http://featherbrowcouture.com.au/

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