What Tim Russert Could Teach Companies About Listening

Ronald Shaw of Shaw Marketing Partners, Inc. in Carmel recently penned a column in BizVoice articulating how businesses should truly listen to their customers. As an example, he referenced the late Tim Russert, acknowledging the "Meet the Press" host was known for his genuine approach to listening and offering thoughtful, effective follow-up questions.

Shaw advises companies to follow eight specific guidelines:

  • Listen to customers continuously. Instead of just taking the traditional “annual snapshot,” monitor your most strategic customers’ attitudes by talking to a portion of them every single month.
  • Get the big picture. Avoid getting a distorted view of a customer’s attitudes by getting feedback from individuals at various levels and within various parts of the customer organization.
  • Use a variety of listening methods. In addition to the traditional one-on-one depth interview, incorporate executive advisory board sessions, roundtable discussions, etc.
  • Don’t just talk to your own customers. Talk with prospective customers too in order to gain broader industry perspectives and get an objective view of how your organization is viewed in the broader market.
  • Ask engaging questions. In the customer feedback conversation, ask interesting, provocative questions that engage the emotions to get richer, deeper responses and more valuable insights.
  • Listen objectively without the usual built-in filters. Consider using an independent researcher to eliminate the possibility of bias and to ensure that vital insights are gained and channeled directly to company leaders.
  • Capture the exact words of your customers. Record and disseminate lots of verbatim comments so others will interpret their meaning exactly the way the interviewee intended.
  • Link employee compensation to customer attitudes. Realize that customer attitudes are leading indicators of their future behaviors. Then shape employee behavior by linking at least part of their compensation to customer attitudes.