David Harkins

David Harkins

Dr. David L. Harkins is a social scientist researching the human experience in systems and culture. He is an experienced executive coach and consultant, passionate educator, and keynote speaker. Through his teachings, inspiration, and guidance, he helps individuals and organizations identify and connect with their potential to make a meaningful difference in their communities.

People are talking. Are you listening?

Hearing is a funny thing.

One can hear, but not be listening.  One can listen, but not hear what’s being said.  Either way, the conversation goes on just the same.  People are talking to you and about you, but you may not be making the connection that it’s “you” who is the topic of the conversation.  Take it from a guy who has had the benefit of hearing impairment most of his adult life.

Those same conversations go on about organizations and brands every day.  Everyone talks, but few organizations truly listen.  It seems to me that most organizations are “hearing or listening impaired,” and the older the organization, the worse the problem.  Most organizations try to hear what is being said, but some are still using an old-fashioned hearing aid (ear trumpet).  There are others who let their hearing aid batteries weaken or worst of all, even others have removed their hearing aids because they don’t like what their hearing.

Don’t believe me?  Do you work for any of these organizations?

The Ear Trumpets
Organizations listening to customers with the ear trumpet funnel many voices down a long tube where only the loudest are heard.  In an organization, this is like sending all the calls to “customer service” or the “help desk.”  The ear trumpet solution works poorly for the hearing impaired and even worse for organizations.  Think about it: just because the organization is not hearing the softer voices doesn’t mean friends, neighbors, and competitors aren’t.

The Weak Batteries
Those organizations that operate on weak battery power for their hearing device miss critical elements of the conversation with their customers.  The discussions continue, but the organization picks up only bits and pieces—like a conversation with your mom on a bad mobile phone connection.  She keeps talking; unfortunately, you’ve dropped enough of what she is saying that don’t realize you’ve been offered a free trip to the Bahamas and declined to go.  The same thing happens with customers when an organization only hears parts of the conversation—good opportunities are lost.

The Not Listenings
The organization that removes its hearing device, or has decided not to buy one in the first place, does not want to participate in the conversation with its customers.  It would rather yell at a customer and hope a few want what it’s selling than open up a conversation with the customer about needs, values, and expectations.  Who likes to be yelled at all the time?  Not me, and I’ll bet not you.  Aside from great products and exceptional service, all customers want is to be heard.

Social media tools help level the playing field for organizations that are “hearing impaired.”  It’s like having a pair of super-charged, digital hearing aids that help you amplify just those frequencies you need to hear.  This ability to listen, hear and actively engage in conversations 24/7 allow your organization incredible opportunities to learn from your customers, correct your mistakes, and build a loyal following.

Now, turn on those hearing aids and engage in conversation.  You’ll be surprised what you will learn when you start listening again.


Featured Image Source: Randy Adams from Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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