Being able to communicate effectively is the most important of all life skills. Communication can make or break our world. It can build up healthy and productive relationships or break them forever. For example, how many times each one of us has experienced quarrels that are just a result of misunderstanding? And how many times you felt embarrassed because you were talking to somebody who was not listening to you because they were doing something else? Or even, how many times somebody rushed to respond to you without having considered all the perspectives or the information that they should have before starting to talk.
If we think of communication in a broader way, it doesn’t concern only inter-personal relationships, but also relationships of a customer with a company. And I am pretty sure that the above examples of communication failures resulting in bad experiences can be reflected to some other interactions of you – as a customer - with an organization. Just like to a person, communication failure or success can have equivalent results to a company. Communication is the attribute that can create great or bad experiences to the customer and thus it can make an organization outperform in profitability, revenue and market share as an older Harvard Business Review describes.
So, what can we do to improve our organization’s communication skills?
It is actually exactly the same as to what we can do, as persons, in order to improve our communication skills. The steps look easy: we have to LISTEN, UNDERSTAND and REACT.
However, no matter the fact that the steps look obvious, in practice - even the persons, but a lot more - the companies struggle to follow. Let’s take a closer look to each one of these 3 steps.
Listening is the foundation to good communication. Oliver Wendell Holmes (American physician, poet, professor) had said "It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen". It’s easy to mistake listening as a simple, passive task. In fact, it requires more than just the ability to absorb information from someone. Listening is a process, and it is an active one.
What to Listen?
Listening means being able to receive and comprehend customer-initiated actions and events indicating a need. Customers have needs and they express them:
- either directly through words, so you have to be able to listen to what they say and feel,
- or indirectly through behavior, so in this case you have to listen to
- the customer journey before buying new products or services,
- the events related to using existing products or services, i.e. bank transactions, telco data usage, insurance telematics.
How to Listen?
- So, firstly we want to “listen” to what they say and feel, but how? Organizations are very much mature in understanding and analyzing structured data. However, no matter the fact that a lot of times there are data inside the organization that express customer’s thoughts and feelings, they are unstructured text data, so they are difficult to really get insights out of them. In order to be able to use them, we need to transform them to structured data. This can be easily done through SAS Text Analytics technology which let you automatically identify key topics, sentiment, categories and entities, making it easy for your organization to extract valuable customer insights.
- Second, we want to “listen” to their behavior. This seems to be an easy task, since most of the organizations have operational systems that collect such data. However, there are two important issues here:
- The customer journey is not anymore executed only through traditional channels. It mostly happens through the digital channels like web or mobile. Customers almost always visit your online channels before proceeding to a buy. They may make specific searches or visit specific pages. Actually, when visiting these channels, they reveal what they are looking for from your organization. Being able to track this customer navigation makes you able to “listen” to the customers’ expressed needs. Only by combining the offline behavior with the online behavior will you be able to have a complete picture of your customer’s journey. You can learn more about how to get a 360 view of your customer’s journey through SAS®360 Discover.
- The data coming from operational systems may not be that valuable if used after an hour or a day that you will have stored them. You may need to use them NOW, as quickly as they are generated. And maybe these business events are not simple, meaning they maybe are events requiring to combine and manipulation data records in real-time to extract them. To do this, you need a different than a Batch Engine approach. A Stream Engine approach, instead of storing data and running quires against the stored data, will let you store the queries and stream the data through the queries. You can learn more about how to do this in SAS® Event Stream Processing.
The LISTENING technologies will bring in a truly 360 view of your customers, making you able to identify complex events in real-time, and for sure make you ready to proceed to the next communication step. We will discuss the UNDERSTAND and REACT steps in PART 2 and 3 of this series - stay tuned!
- Feel free to watch the following webinar which:
- perfectly demonstrates the listening step by utilizing streaming data but also
- gives a vision to the complete communication process including the understanding step applying advanced analytics and the reaction step applying real-time offering : http://go.sas.com/ar66ta