4 Ways to Become a Listening Leader Through Authentic Customer Relationships With so many products in the marketplace, the key to success in an ever-changing digital and competitive landscape is to understand the hearts and minds of your customer

By Stephen Ezell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are a lot of pieces that go into building a thriving company. But the reality is even the most well-meaning CEOs can't guarantee success. Early in my career with Truly Free, I believed the right product and a solid social impact story would equate to revenue growth.

I quickly found that website traffic didn't just appear. The reality was that a solid offering backed by purpose was just one thing to consider in my entrepreneurial journey. I needed to refocus on our ideal customers and what they truly wanted. By reimagining our company with customers at its heart, Truly Free grew.

Research has shown the power of placing priority on the customer. McKinsey notes that 70% of the customer journey is based on how the customer feels they are being treated. And Salesforce found that 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as necessary as its product.

Here are four tips to put priority back on building authentic customer relationships.

1. Become active in the customer service process

As a CEO, it's essential to be an active participant in the customer service process. Knowing each aspect of the user journey enables you, as a leader, to know your company best and hear the voice of those you serve.

In fact, I often delegate other aspects of my job to ensure I have the time and space to be fully part of customer service touchpoints. This allows me to learn more about our customer and how our company story and products are resonating.

In addition, ensure your sales and customer service teams are reporting on their daily customer interactions. These teams are your front line when it comes to understanding what obstacles, priorities or questions clients have. The information they hear can help enhance the customer journey, strengthen your brand and its products and build a more loyal bond through consistent client touch-points.

Related: Listening Will Make You a Great Leader

2. Prioritize being a listening CEO

At Truly Free, customers are family. With every decision we make, we return to this key point. Would we want our family to use this product? Would we be comfortable sharing these ingredients? Would we want them to have this experience on the website?

To best get to know our customers, we listen. Not only do we coordinate regular focus groups, but I sit in them as the CEO. This enables them to know their voices are heard and matter throughout the company.

Related: 5 Strategies for How to Make Customers Trust Your Brand

3. Pay attention to feedback

Studies have shown that feeling unappreciated is the number one reason customers switch products or services. That's why it's critical to pay attention to feedback from customers and resolve it quickly.

Make sure team members are actively monitoring customer reviews and social media comments. Set up a process to deal with complaints, giving team members the authority to help rectify situations as they arise. Finally, share complaints and reviews across the entire team for full organizational transparency into customer pain points and opportunities.

When it comes to angry customers, a swift resolution is critical. As CEO, I'll even pick up the phone and call an angry customer directly to help solve a problem. This seemingly simple act can reap big rewards. 70% of unhappy customers whose problems are resolved have shown a willingness to keep doing business with the same company.

Related: Meaning Well Doesn't Equal Success: 4 Ways to Run a Successful Business

4. Share your story

Understanding your why — as well as your customer's why — is essential to growth. And in this climate, social impact is a critical trend for companies to consider.

This all begins with authentic connection and a company driven by purpose. Not only should you know why your customers purchase your products, but your customers should also understand why you do what you do.

For me, this all begins with sharing the story of how Truly Free began and how we've grown. I do not shy away from talking about the personal impact products like ours have had on my family. Further, I am transparent about who creates our products and the causes our products support. By building authenticity into our narrative, we are fostering a trusted audience that resonates with our mission.

With so many products in the marketplace, there is no shortage of options for customers. The key to success in an ever-changing digital and competitive landscape is to understand the hearts and minds of your customer. Creating unique, authentic connections and prioritizing relationships across the organization can set your company up for long-term success.

Stephen Ezell

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO & Founder

Stephen is known as a disruptive thought leader in the conscious capital movement, building brands and online marketplaces that drive revenue AND make an impact on the world. His refillable cleaning revolution has freed over 230K homes from toxic chemicals, eliminating over 6.2M single-use plastics.

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