Are you a good sport?

I recently completed my first season playing with a local hockey club. Maybe you saw some of my social media posts about my return to a sport which I hadn’t played since my school days (rather a long time ago)? I was pretty rusty to start off with but I’m happy to report I’ve learnt a lot in my first season, not just around refreshing my hockey playing skills, but also about myself.

And I wanted to share how some of those lessons can be applied to client listening:

Lead – I’m far from being the best hockey player in the team but I know the importance of being a good sport and leading by example. I turn up on time and in the right kit, act graciously in defeat and always thank the other team and the umpires after each match.

Similarly, embarking on a successful client listening programme means having the right attitude, whether that involves taking on a leadership role – championing the project internally and with clients, galvanising reluctant colleagues to put their clients forward or taking difficult decisions as a result of the insight gleaned. You need to treat all feedback – and especially the most challenging – as a gift. It’s much better to be made aware of an issue and be able to deal with it than to lose a client altogether.

Listen – If you listen to what people are saying, you’ll learn and progress. Things had moved on a lot since I last played hockey – not least the change from playing on grass to AstroTurf which makes the game a LOT quicker! So I listened to the coaches and more experienced players and asked questions if I wasn’t sure about things.

Really listening to your clients might feel uncomfortable at first but by doing so, you’ll go on to reap many benefits. Listening to all your clients (not just the ones you know are going to say nice things) demonstrates integrity and bravery.  You’re likely to learn something new (even from your longest-standing clients) and may even uncover future business opportunities.

Act – there is no point in listening to your clients if you’re not going to put the insight into action. I acted on my coaches’ and teammates’ advice and so improved – so much so I was even awarded ‘most improved player’ at the end of the season!

Although you may not get an award for listening to your clients, you will certainly be rewarded for acting on what you learn. In this sense, taking action demonstrates to clients that you really do care about how you make them feel and helps not only retain your existing clients but also attract new prospects too. Talking publicly about your client listening activity and resulting actions on your website and social media demonstrates an approach that’s rooted in humility as well as a commitment to delivering for your clients – aspects of the client experience that immediately make you more attractive to prospects.

Train – Hockey training was crucial for me. I turned up at the start of the season very ‘green’ but with a ‘can do’ attitude and a willingness to get stuck in and develop my skills. If you work in a sector which requires specific expertise, you’re likely to recruit people with strong technical skills in your area. Although you won’t be recruiting people who you couldn’t put in front of a client, client care skills might not be top of your agenda. That’s understandable, but you do want to recruit people with the right attitude towards developing this aspect of their skills – people who you can train to deliver excellent service as well as strong technical advice. Client service training is vital if you want your clients to receive a consistently high level of service from everyone they interact with across your business.

As with any sport, client listening needs to be approached with enthusiasm, commitment, sponsorship and a continuous improvement mindset – but you’ll be pleased to know you won’t need a mouthguard!

As always, please do contact me if you’d like to discuss how I can help your business with its client listening efforts.

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